<![CDATA[MakeBestof - How Not To\'s]]>Thu, 14 Jan 2016 22:22:05 -0800EditMySite<![CDATA[How Not To: Get Ripped Off When Recycling]]>Mon, 25 Aug 2014 17:41:07 GMThttp://makethebestof.weebly.com/how-not-tos/how-not-to-get-ripped-off-when-recycling

by Erik J. Schram - 

So ya know how Americans have become obsessed with having the latest and greatest electronics? Whether its shelling out another $500 for this years model of the iPad or making sure your graphics card can handle the new GTA V, people have never been more willing to empty their wallets just to stay up to date. And as a result of this technological habit, came the problem of getting rid of the old or broken tech that we replaced. That's where sites like uSell or eBay come in handy to get a little cash back. But what if your laptop is too old or too broken to reuse? Then we're told to take it all to certified e-waste drop offs like Best Buy or other local electronic shops. Now, what if I told you that these places are taking the electronics that we give them for free (or even at our expense) and making a ton of money from them..? The idea didn't sit well with me either..

According to the Consumer Electronics Association, Americans are expected to purchase 130 million new smartphones, 116 million new tablets, and 26 million laptops this year. In 2013 alone, the CEA calculated that we spent over $215.8 billion (with a 'b') on these everyday electronics. Leaving behind 3.42 million tons of e-waste from 2012 alone. Only around 20% of that waste is is actually recycled and about 80% is thrown into our landfills or incinerated into the atmosphere. In that 80% that is just thrown away, roughly $60,000,000 a year in precious metals go along with it. Actually, studies show that e-waste has 10-50 times the copper content than copper ore and cellphones alone contain 5-10 times more gold than gold ore. Making e-waste the fastest growing waste stream in America. While most of us have gone all these years just throwing out or recycling these things, the swindlers in question have been profiting like crazy, for years now.

Think with me for a second. How many times have you gone to a major electronic store to replace your old TV or computer, only to have the salesman say that your old stuff is no good. They don't want it, no one wants it. So they point to the giant recycling bins and you gladly and responsibly dispose of your “junk”, thinking nothing of it. Now what happens next, is simply unfair tomfoolery towards us 20%'ers.

To help put the following into perspective slightly, for every one million smartphones recycled, you get an average of:
  • 35,274 lbs of copper

  • 772 lbs of silver

  • 75 lbs of gold

  • 33 lbs of palladium

That's just smartphones by themselves. When we take a look at the average desktop or laptop computer, you get around $9 of gold. In just one! So if we look at the figures from earlier and do a little guesstimation, we can very roughly assume around 20 million of the 26 million new laptops will be replacing an old or broken one. Which means 20 million computers with $9 of gold in each... So we take the $180,000,000 of gold that we're throwing out and divide the 20% that actually gets recycled. $36,000,000 a year is being given to them by us. That isn't even taking other metals like alluminum or iron that are in the same computers. I know these figures are not exact, but I think you understand where I'm taking this.

I came across this concerning new knowledge of mine one day when I was looking at my own mountain of PC's, DVD players and monitors. I've been almost hoarding old or broken electronics for years now because at one point in time, they were very reusable. Now however, most are far too old to use for parts or get up and running. So I thought about how I could possible make a little cash from all this stuff. I called my favorite local metal recycling company, which is great for pop cans, but they were absolutely no help in this situation. They actually offered to take all the PC's in their entirety, however only would pay for the weight of sheet iron. Which was about a dime a pound. When I mentioned all of the precious metals and other materials, the employee apologized and said that's all they offer. I was fairly agitated at this point.

Next I went into my favorite local computer repair shop, thinking that they offer to recycle our stuff, so let's find out what they do with it. The moment I started asking questions, was the moment that I knew I wouldn't get any answers there. In the guy's defense, the first employee I talked to didn't know much, at all. So after asking about five times to talk to the manager, I finally pull him outside to ask some questions (and to flip my lid over his incompetent employee). The manager explains to me in a most annoyed fashion, that the company takes our stuff for free or at our expense, breaks down its different valuables and then sells those to to the very same metal recycling center that turned me down previously. He also said that I talked to the wrong person.. I guess the company itself doesn't offer to buy precious metals from the public, but if you are a business or someone like me who has tons of separated metals, you need to simply talk to one specific person.. I went from fairly agitated to absolutely furious.

So what are our options now?

Don't Give Them Your Money!

I'm going to step out on a limb here and assume you're like 99% of the world and you enjoy having extra money. Now let me also assume, that you like to see money that isn't yours, go to whom it is actually supposed to go to. After doing a son of research I've come up with a few tips that will help MakeTheBestOf that gold mine we call e-waste.
  • Instead of taking your e-waste directly to the recycling bins, read up on how to separate all the good stuff yourself. Remember to be very careful when working on monitors and TV's however. They contain more hazardous materials and components.

  • Save all the separated materials until you have a good quantity. It's far easier and way more worth while to sell if you have quantity at all.

  • Ask friends and family if they have any old electronics to get rid of. A lot of times people will give you their old stuff simply because they're not interested in saving the metals. They just want the space back. So it's still win win.

  • Search the web for different e-waste refineries that will buy things like mother boards, pci boards and processors. Remember, the price of precious metals are ever changing so make sure to hunt a little for the best prices. My personal favorite is The Refining Company. Their website is very helpful and the people I've spoken to have been amazing.

  • You could even take it further and learn to refine the metals yourself. Check out this awesome tutorial.

My message here isn't just that we need to responsibly recycle more as a species, it's that we're getting ripped off all this time. So make sure you help yourself and MakeTheBestOf those old electronics. I for one would like to have a chunk of that $36,000,000. Wouldn't you?