After e-waste items are collected, they are typically sorted by type and checked for resale value, says Tim Dewey-Mattia, who serves as a board member for the Northern California Recycling Association. The device will be broken down to its core components before it is shredded. Plastic parts are flaked, cleaned and melted into pellets which can be used to make various plastic items from picnic tables to traffic cones — or other new electronic devices.
The metal undergoes a smelting process that uses high temperatures and special equipment to extract out precious metals such as gold, silver or copper.
Fun fact: In recycling circles, televisions, radios and computers (along with a few other household items) are known as “brown goods” because the term harkens back to the days when televisions and radios were housed in wood or fake wood cabinetry.
“At a high level, I do believe there are environmental drawbacks and a premium to properly recycle,” says Evelyn O’Donnell, founder of the Silicon Valley-based recycling company Green Mouse IT Management Services. “Transporting electronic wastes requires the use of gasoline for vehicles to pick up and subsequently send downstream for further recycling (and) some electronic wastes are sent by truck from state to state for processing,” she says. In addition, the process of smelting can release toxic fumes in the air but precious metal extraction performed overseas can be even worse, says Lin.
Jesus: Hey, Dad? God: Yes, Son? Jesus: Western civilization followed me home. Can I keep it? God: Certainly not! And put it down this minute--you don't know where it's been! Tom Robbins in Another Roadside Attraction