Quick test: How well do you know which electronic material should be recycled and which should stay far away from our landfills?
Test your knowledge with 6 questions about 3 types of commonly recycled electronics.
TRUE or FALSE
- Since most plastics from plasma televisions contain flame retardants, the typical recycling process is manual disassembly?
- The glass from LCD panels can be reused to fabricate items such as glass ceramics?
- Small household appliances go to a landfill where they rust, and expel harmful waste into the environment?
- Some appliances are biodegradable?
- All batteries must be recycled with a certified electronics recycler?
- If thrown in a landfill in a charged state, some types of batteries could cause a fire?
LCD and Plasma TVs Recycling:
There are significant differences in material content between LCD and Plasma TVs. The most important difference is the substantially higher amount of glass in plasma TVs; LCD TVs contain more types and higher amounts of plastics.
A relatively high recycling rate for Plasma TVs is achievable, compared to LCD TVs, since the large glass fraction can be recycled in the treatment process. On the other hand, for recycling of LCD TVs (which contain a higher amount of plastics compared to Plasma TVs), an advanced post-shredder separation processes, such as optical polymer separation, is one of the most promising methods. The typical composition of liquid crystal displays in LCD TVs is 87.2% glass, 12.7% plastics and 0.1% liquid crystals. The glass from LCD panels can be used to fabricate glass ceramics.
Since most plastics from plasma televisions contain flame retardants, the typical recycling process is manual disassembly. Furthermore, compared to other methods, manual disassembly is economically viable for LCD TVs and can substantially improve the value of recovered materials, as well as the percentage of recycled materials.
The Printed Circuit Boards (PCBs) of LCD televisions can have value; therefore a method which involves clustering can make the recovery of PCBs from flat screen TVs economically feasible. It has been proven that manual disassembly can allow a recovery of more than 95% of PCBs. Hence, manual disassembly can be feasible for LCD and Plasma TVs with higher value PCBs and/or faster accessibility to them.
Small Household Appliances:
Small appliances like toasters, hair dryers, irons, vacuum cleaners, fans and countless other devices can become a big problem if not disposed of properly. Many of these small appliances we use in our homes have short lifespans compared to major appliances like refrigerators and washing machines.
Environmental consequences after disposal include the introduction of greenhouse gases, heavy metals and toxic chemicals into the environment. Household appliances pose particular risks to the environment that should be kept in check; however, consumers should minimize the impact of all disposed goods by recycling as much of the durable materials as possible (metals, plastics, glass) and by making themselves aware of and recovering any harmful substances involved. This reduces the impact of environmental consequences as well as further mining of increasingly scarce resources. Small household appliances go to a landfill where they rust, and expel harmful waste into the environment. Also, since appliances are not biodegradable, they just sit and take up space.
While many of these smaller consumer products are encased in plastic, they’re also comprised of metal, which is recyclable and valuable. Most major appliances are more than 75% steel, a very recyclable metal. Most small appliances are processed similarly to small electronics, so it is essential to note that both appliances and electronics can be recycled in a safe and efficient manner, and if they are not recycled, they can be extremely harmful to our planet Earth.
According to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), recycling small household appliances helps keep the environment clean and healthy. It has been proven that disposing of household appliances, instead of recycling them, introduces heavy metals, toxic chemicals, and greenhouse gases into the environment. To lighten the carbon footprint and protect the environment, recycling small household appliances through a reputable recycling center is a must.
Spent batteries are classified as hazardous waste by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in large quantities and these wastes are regulated under the Universal rules of Hazardous Waste regulations (40 CFR PART 273). For management of spent batteries, they can be sorted into four categories: alkaline batteries, Nickel-Cadmium batteries, Nickel-Metal Hydride batteries, and Lithium ion batteries.
|Alkaline Batteries||Toys, Portable CD and MP3 Players, Remote Controls and Flashlights|
|Nickel-Cadmium (Ni-Cd) Batteries||Cordless phones, Tools, and Two Way Radios|
|Nickel-Metal Hydride (Ni-MH) Batteries||Camcorders, Cameras, and Bar Code Scanners|
|Lithium-Ion (Li-ion) & Lithium Polymer (Li-poly) Batteries||Cell Phones, Laptops, and Electric Cars|
Alkaline/Zinc Carbon/Zinc Air Batteries
Since alkaline batteries contain no hazardous components requiring management as Universal Waste and are considered non-hazardous by the USEPA, these batteries should be separated from the rechargeable batteries and disposed of as normal trash. They typically consist of common metals such as steel, zinc, and manganese with a small amount of alkaline electrolyte.
These batteries are recycled in a specialized “room temperature” mechanical separation process where the battery components are separated into three end products. These products are a) Zinc & Manganese Concentrate, b) Steel, c) Paper & Plastic. All of these products are put back into the market place for reuse in new products. These batteries are 100% recycled.
Nickel-Cadmium, Nickel Metal Hydride Batteries
Home electronics now often include rechargeable batteries, many of them of a Nickel-Cadmium (Ni-Cd) design. Old computers, laptops, cell phones and cordless phones should be sorted and disposed of properly to avoid hazardous contamination. A group of battery manufacturers formed the Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corporation (RBRC) to develop a system for collecting and recycling these kinds of batteries. The Nickel-Metal Hydride (NiMH) battery was introduced as another option to the Nickel-Cadmium batteries. The main difference between these two battery types is the substitution of a metal hydride instead of cadmium.
To recycle these batteries, plastics are separated from the metal components prior to the smelting process. The metals (i.e. nickel, iron, manganese, and chromium) are melted via a High-Temperature Metal Reclamation (HTMR) process: the molten metals are solidified and the low-melt metals (i.e. zinc and cadmium) separate from the melt. The batteries are 100% recycled in this method and the metals and plastic are then returned to be reused in new products.
Lithium Ion Batteries
Lithium ion batteries contain metallic lithium that reacts violently when in contact with moisture and the batteries must be disposed of appropriately. If thrown in a landfill in a charged state, heavy equipment operating on top could crush the cases and the exposed lithium would cause a fire. Landfill fires are difficult to extinguish and can burn for years underground. Before recycling, apply a full discharge to consume the lithium content. Batteries should be in a discharged condition prior to their disposal. Generally, a primary lithium cell is considered to be discharged once its voltage reaches 2 volts or less under a current of C/100 (C is the rated capacity of the battery in ampere-hours).
These batteries are recycled in a specialized “room temperature, oxygen-free” mechanical process during which the battery components are separated into three end products. These items are a) Cobalt & Lithium Salt Concentrate, b) Stainless Steel, c) Copper, Aluminum and Plastic. All of these products are then put back on the market to be reused in new products. These batteries are 100% recycled.
Each country imposes its own rules and fees to make recycling feasible. In North America, some recycling plants invoice on weight, and the rates vary according to chemistry.
How did you do? Check your answers below.
- Since most plastics from plasma televisions contain flame retardants, the typical recycling process is manual disassembly? TRUE
- The glass from LCD panels can be reused to fabricate items such as glass ceramics? TRUE
- Small household appliances go to a landfill where they rust, and expel harmful waste into the environment? TRUE
- Some appliances are biodegradable? FALSE
- All batteries must be recycled with a certified electronics recycler? FALSE
- If thrown in a landfill in a charged state, some types of batteries could cause a fire? TRUE
For more information about computers and electronics recycling visit Southeastern Data at SoutheasternData.com, call 1-800-810-0432 or email questions to