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Posts Tagged ‘electronics’

Alkaline Batteries – Just Throw them in the Garbage!

March 31st, 2011 27 comments

We used to think it was a shame to let any recyclable household item go into the waste bin, so we were surprised to learn that it’s not necessary to recycle alkaline batteries.

Batteries can be categorized as either single-use (primary cell) batteries or rechargeable (secondary cell) batteries. Each type requires special instructions to ensure it’s properly recycled (or discarded). The majority of consumer batteries for household use fall within these types:

  • Alkaline
  • Zinc-carbon
  • Button cell (lithium manganese or silver oxide)
  • Lithium (Li-ion)
  • Nickel-cadmium (NiCd)
  • Nickel metal hydride (NiMH)
  • Lead-based (automotive and non-automotive)

It turns out that some battery manufacturers, like Duracell and Energizer, have eliminated all of the added mercury from its alkaline batteries, so they can now be safely discarded along with normal household waste. The other components of the batteries — steel, zinc and manganese — don’t pose health or environmental risks in the solid waste stream, according to Duracell, and those metals are difficult to recover from batteries.

We learned this by reading a blog written by an environmentally minded person named Will Taft — willtaft.com — who did some research into the proper disposal of alkaline batteries. He even found this comment from the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA):

“Alkaline batteries are not recyclable. They’ll just be thrown out in a landfill, or at the most a hazardous waste landfill.”

Rechargeable batteries are a different story, though — they can contain mercury, cadmium, lead, and lithium, and therefore should be recycled. Car batteries and other lead-based batteries should also be recycled.

Alkaline batteries have several advantages: they last for a long time, perform well at high and low temperatures and have a long storage life. They can be stored at room temperature for two years and retain 90 percent of their original capacities.

It’s important to handle them properly, however. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) warns that if potassium hydroxide, which is contained within the cells of alkaline batteries, leaks out, it can cause chemical burns on skin or in your eyes.

And, Duracell warns people never to dispose of alkaline batteries by fire, because they could explode. Duracell also says not to dispose of large amounts of alkaline batteries together. Used batteries are often not completely “dead,” and grouping them can bring these “live” batteries into contact with one another, creating safety risks.

Most sources say that more than 150,000 tons of single-use batteries are tossed into landfills each year. Send your alkaline batteries to ecycler HQ and we’ll take action to properly dispose of the batteries.

Buy rechargeable batteries!

 

 

Categories: materials, recycle Tags: ,

Electronic Waste – Reduce Reuse Recycle

February 23rd, 2011 1 comment

Millions of tons of electronic waste is generated every year in North America and the amount increases with every new gadget, computer and smartphone that hits the market. In our quest to improve our lives through technology we are creating electronic waste at an unprecedented rate. In response, we have seen more attention focused on methods to reduce, reuse and recycle electronic waste.

Reduce

In the pursuit for faster computers, more features on our smart phones and better picture quality, we are constantly replacing our electronics with newer and better performing models. But what if there was a way to get that improved performance, more features and better picture without increasing the amount of stuff we buy? Well, there already is a movement afoot to reduce the amount of computer hardware that needs to be purchased in order to stay on top of the tech race. The term is “cloud computing” and although it may sound like a weather forecasting computer it is actually a concept of sharing resources such as computer memory, processing power, and software over a network. For example you may need a fast computer to run software that you don’t currently own and perhaps will only need for a set amount of time. With cloud computing you would contract with a company that has the type of computer/software/memory you need and pay them a fee to access it on the Internet.

Why you may ask is this reducing the amount of electronic waste produced? Well instead of you having to purchase another computer and more memory you can use what you need, when you need it from the company providing the service. The company will have one very large computer that runs the software you and thousands of others are using. Essentially, their one computer replaces the thousands that would have needed to be purchased to complete the same task. Their one computer can be used more effectively because while you are sleeping someone in Europe can be using your portion of the big computer which likely wouldn’t be happening if it was sitting on your desk in low power sleep mode. An additional benefit is that the company providing the service is likely to be continuously upgrading and improving the software to retain and attract customers. This means that you aren’t going to get stuck with a piece of out-of-date software in a few years. And, if you’re a business you can add users by simply buying more access instead of having to buy more software and hardware to accommodate growth. Cloud computing is both lean and green.

Reuse

We know it’s easy to recycle cans and bottles but who wants your old computer that is far from high tech? The truth is that lots of people might want it including schools, low-income earners, and even those pesky computer geeks. While it may not suit your needs anymore there is such a wide spectrum of computer uses out there that your old clunker may be just the thing that Junior could use to practice his typing or learn basic programming. Sometimes the latest and greatest isn’t the best tool for the job especially if you are looking to do a little tinkering under the hood, which is what many computer hobby hackers do. They are looking for something that they can strip down, try some new tricks on or simply strip the good parts. Whatever the use, if you can find Junior or a hobbyist, your computer will extend its useful life before it meets a shredder in the next phase, which is recycling. If you’re having trouble finding a home for your electronic waste or have large volumes consider a waste consultant who can use their knowledge and experience to find a solution.

Recycle

OK, you’ve tried to donate your outdated electronic waste but it seems nobody wants your old clunker. Now it’s time to find a recycling facility that will take your old electronic device and safely recycle the materials contained within. But a word of caution on recycling of electronic waste because all may not be well. If you find someone that is willing to recycle your electronic, ask some questions like “Where does my computer go to be recycled?” or “Can you provide proof of recycling at an approved facility?” If the answer to the first question is another country such as China or India you may want to reconsider. Not that all recyclers in China and India are irresponsible but there is considerable evidence that much of the electronic waste sent to these countries is processed in ways that is extremely harmful to the both the environment and the workers that recycle the waste. You may think your old iPhone is being carefully disassembled for valuable materials when in fact it is being processed in an acid bath over an open fire, which is then dumped into a river. This brings me to my second rule of thumb, which is asking for proof of recycling at an approved facility. Ask the recycler where they send their materials. If they can’t or won’t tell you, it is a red flag. If they will tell you, do a quick Google search on the facility they provide and see what you find. Ideally you want to have your waste recycled locally by a government certified facility that is operating a safe and ethical recycling system. Most recyclers dealing with a certified electronic waste recycler will provide a record of recycling to certify that your electronic waste was recycled at an approved facility.

The solution to the ever-increasing electronic waste issue is to use computing resources more efficiently (Cloud Computing), reuse and extend the life of electronic waste (Schools and Hobbyists), and use a responsible recycler (Local and Accountable).

Terbium! More Valuable than Silver?

February 7th, 2011 1 comment

Pssst…hey buddy, wanna buy some terbium? I got some going cheap for only $800,000 per ton.

Our desire for the latest electronic gadgets made from exotic materials such as terbium, dysprosium, yttrium, thulium, and lutetium have made these relatively unknown substances a very hot commodity. So hot in fact that the Chinese government has called for a halt to shipments of these materials for export. How come? Because these so called “rare earth elements” are so rare that Chinese officials are worried that domestic demand will consume all current Chinese production in the near future. Why is this big news? Because China supplies 95% of the rare earth elements mostly from mines in Inner Mongolia. Without this supply expect prices to spike dramatically which will certainly affect the electronics industry as a whole.

Rare earth metals are used in everything from iPhone circuit boards to flat screen televisions. With increasing prices and rising demand one thing is certain, rare earth elements are about to get a lot more rare.

While this may spell higher prices for consumers it’s good news for those that recycle old electronics because those old circuit boards are about to get really valuable. Like any market when a resource become scarce people get more creative in the methods used to obtain the resource. And guess what, it’s a lot easier to find terbium in used electronics than heading to the mountains with a pick and a shovel.

This is good news for the environment and recyclers. In the past there wasn’t much demand for old electronics as a recyclable item, old and outdated electronics usually gathered dust in a garage until the owners finally got sick of looking at them and carted them off to the dump. With increasing prices for the rare earth metals that outdated electronics contain that old stereo or TV could become a hot item with recyclers. Using marketplaces like ecycler makes it easier to match up those who have electronics to recycle with those who recycle electronics. If you’re like most people you have at least one old piece of electronic equipment cluttering up your house or garage, try listing it on ecycler to save yourself the hassle of recycling/disposing of the item yourself?

A detailed look at the rare metal situation: The Telegraph