Best Practices for Recycling Electronics in Edmonton, Alberta

Recycling electronic devices is a rapidly growing and evolving industry, with around 50-60 million tons generated each year. E-waste refers to any discarded electronic device or component, ranging from smartphones and laptops to kitchen appliances and televisions. The rate the we create new electronics and dispose of old ones makes e-waste the fastest growing waste stream in the world, equalling 2-3% of all waste world wide. As consumers, there are great concerns that we must be aware of in the world of electronics recycling.

With less than 20% of all e-waste generated each year being properly recycled, we need to become better with our day-to-day practices. Working to reduce our e-waste, re-use and donate devices when possible, and become knowledgeable about who is recycling and where the electronic devices are going have never been so important.

Recycling electronic devices and other junk removal in Edmonton.

Navigating the World of E-Waste: Best Practices for Recycling Electronics

With smart devices being so common in our daily lives, in addition to the many other electronic devices, it is more important now than ever before we adopt better practices for recycling electronic devices.

So what are some of the best practices for electronics recycling?

Keep your Batteries out of the Landfill

For many of us, we’ve never thought much into what happens to batteries when we’re done with them. But with new smart phones, laptops, tablets and many other devices now using lithium-ion batteries, the risks are now much greater if they’re not recycled properly. First off, there are risks of the batteries being compacted in the garbage truck when picked up. Because garbage trucks compact the garbage they haul, there is a great risk that batteries are crushed int he process. This can cause a fire within the truck.

If the batteries make it to the landfill, there is a risk that toxic chemicals leak into the landfill and pollute it. Additionally, with the use of heavy equipment to process materials at the landfill, there is a risk of puncturing these batteries which can cause them to explode. When lithium-ion batteries light on fire, they are extremely difficult to extinguish. Where a normal can be “suffocated” with extinguishers, the chemicals in these batteries require a specific approach to contain the fire.

The best practice is to store batteries separately in your home and when you’re ready to get rid of them, recycle them at a local eco station. And for devices like phones, tablets and computers with built-in batteries, be sure to separate these for recycling as well!

Send your Electronics to a Licensed Recycler

Whether you’re dropping e-waste off at an independent recycler or a city run Eco-Station, it’s important that the recycler is using proper and best practices. Unfortunately, 75-80% of worldwide e-waste is shipped over seas into Asia and Africa, many times to be processed in poor and marginalized communities. In many of these regions, without appropriate equipment and safety processes, severe health and environmental consequences can occur.

Be sure to ask questions when you drop your goods off. Many organizations will have detailed information on their website and municipalities should be able to provide you the name of the organization they are partnered with.

Understanding E-Waste: What It Is and Why It Matters

E-waste can come in many shapes and sizes, but typically items fall into one of several categories.

  • Large Equipment/Appliances (Washing machine, copiers/printers, dishwashers, etc.)
  • Small Equipment/Appliances (Toys, hand held vacuums, microwaves, etc.)
  • TV Screens and Computer Monitors
  • Temperature Control Equipment (Heaters, fans, etc.)
  • IT, Telecommunications, Computers and Smart Devices (Phones, tablets, GPS’s, etc.)

Environmental Impact of E-Waste

Recycling electronic devices matters because of the materials they’re built with. Many of these e-waste items contain toxic materials such as mercury, lead, cadmium and beryllium. When these items are improperly disposed of or poorly recycled, these materials can leak into the soil and groundwater, causing harm to our environment.

Recycling electronic devices can recover many valuable resources including gold, silver, copper and palladium. Unfortunately, many of these materials never get properly recovered when improper recycling facilities deconstruct or burn e-waste. Another consequence of these actions is that mining these raw materials for production of new electronics is quite costly and invasive to our earth. The energy-intensive production process of electronics contributes to carbon emissions and resource depletion significantly. This is why proper electronics recycling is so important.

Best Practices for Reducing Electronic Waste

Extending the Lifespan of Your Electronics

Although many modern smart devices are build with planned obsolescence, we can always do more to extend the lifespan of each device. Simple maintenance tasks, such as cleaning dust from vents and updating software regularly, can help prolong the usability of smartphones, laptops, and other electronic gadgets.

Consider Repairing Instead of Replacing

When faced with failing electronics, consider repairing it instead of replacing it outright. Many issues, such as cracked screens or battery problems, can be fixed at a fraction of the cost of purchasing a new device. Some repairs may be DIY friendly and others you can simply take to one of many repair stores or kiosks. Repairing electronics is a great way to reduce e-waste creation.

Donate or Sell Unwanted Electronics

If you no longer need one of your electronic devices and it’s still in functioning condition, rather than disposing or recycling, consider donation or selling on a local marketplace. Many organizations will accept gently used electronics for community programs or refurbishment. If you’re looking to cash in on your old device, marketplaces or trade-in programs might be your best bet. There are often alternatives for your old electronics that are much better than simply disposal and can divert them from landfills.

Electronics Recycling

If the item cant be re-used or repurposed, recycling electronic devices is your best option. Often, electronic recycling won’t cost you any money. This is often because the recycler will recover the valuable materials to re-sell and cover their costs of operating. Some recyclers may even offer pick up services, so be sure to call around if you have a sizeable collection of e-waste.

A pile of old electronics, ready for recycling.

Step-by-Step Guide to Recycling Your Electronic Devices

If you’re looking for a guide of how to recycle your old electronics, we’ve got you covered!

  1. Assess and Collect – In your home, as you “retire” older electronics, be sure to separate them from your regular waste items. Collect items together in a box or a bag and store these until you’re ready to drop them off at a recycling depot or eco station. We also recommend storing your used batteries together in a bag and drop them off with your e-waste.
  2. Find a Recycler – When ready to drop your e-waste off, be sure to check for local recyclers. A quick google search will show you local options for either drop off or pick up. If working direct with the recycler isn’t an option, you can also check out Edmonton’s Eco Stations located around the City. The City will collect large amounts of e-waste and arrange for transport to an approved recycler for processing.
  3. Prepare your Electronics for Recycling – Once your items are collected, take some time to remove any personal data from phones, tablets and computers. When ready, arrange for pick-up and/or drop-off. Residents in Edmonton are able to drop off e-waste (anything with a cord or a battery) for free at Eco Stations. If you can’t drop these items off yourself, Junk 4 Good can easily help. Our staff will do all the hard work and recycling on your behalf.
  4. Feel Good! – Now you can feel good! Know that you’ve done your part in reducing pollutants and helping to recycle important materials.

Electronics Recycling FAQ’s

What can be recycled as electronic waste?

Common electronics recycling may include items such as computers, smart phones, tablets, laptops, televisions, printers, keyboards, radios, small and large appliances, monitors, etc.

Can broken electronics be recycled?

Yes, broken electronics can be recycled, however they most often cannot be reused. Recycling e-waste often includes the deconstruction or destruction of the items themselves. The recycler will break the components down to access the desirable components inside them. These include gold, silver, copper and palladium.

What should I do with old electronics?

When your old electronics are no longer needed you may have a few options for getting rid of them. Donating to a local organization is a great solution if they’re still functioning. Another great option to keep them out of the landfill is selling via a marketplace like Facebook Marketplace or Kijiji. If they are broken and no longer functioning, recycling is your best bet and Junk 4 Good is here to help!

Is it safe to recycle electronics with personal information on them?

We would always suggest that you remove all personal information before sending a device for recycling. Many devices will offer you an option to restore the device to a blank state. If its a hard drive you are concerned of, you can clear the contents while its connected to a computer, or you can take physical steps to destroy the hard drive itself.

What happens to electronics after they’re recycled?

The process of recycling will almost always require the deconstruction of a device. This may happen manually or via an automated process to crush or shred the device. Once the insides are accessible, the recycler will extract the valuable components to re-sell, to be reused in future products. The other components will be separated to recycle materials like steel, aluminum and other metals. The remaining non-recyclable materials will then be sent to landfill.