On April 22, 2009, the US House of Representatives passed a bill. H.R. 1580 Electronic Device Recycling Research and Development Act would provide grant funding for “electronic device recycling research, development, and demonstration projects, and for other purposes.” It was never passed by the Senate.
However, in Washington, on January 1, 2009, a law went into effect requiring electronics manufacturers in our state to pay for electronics recycling. By July 2011, over 10M pounds had been recycled. According to E-Cycle Washington’s website, only 2% of their total intake ends up in landfills, after all glass, metals, and reusable plastics have been removed and sorted. Gizmodo reports 426,000 cell phones are decommissioned in the US every day. Every day! Working with the common assumption that only 10% are recycled, we can estimate that 139M phones are thrown away every year.
With gold mines in particular being as ecologically devastating as nuclear waste dumps, and gold being at an all time high due to the recent recession, what is the real impact that electronics recycling can have? In 2011, 237 tons of gold were produced, 7% of which was used in electronics. However, 225 tons were recycled, which was more than consumption for the year.
Well, with the US Government reporting an estimated 2.37 Million tons of e-waste in 2012, mining and ‘production’ of gold and other precious metals going up annually, something has to change. A collective and serious effort to e-cycle as a rule, not an exception could drastically reduce the need for mining for new supply of precious metals. Something to consider.