The rise of smartphones, tablets, home theater systems, and all other electronic devices has changed the world. We are now more connected, and it’s a lot easier to do things, whether personal or business-related. However, an increase in electronics only means one thing; increased e-waste. The world now generates about 50 million tons annually.
So, what can you do about it? Join in the e-waste management efforts. Check out what you can and can’t dispose of, along with some DIY ideas you could use to turn those old electronic devices into gold.
What Electronics Items Can You Throw Away?
You can dispose of a good majority of everyday-use electronics. These include but aren’t limited to:
- Home theater and other audio systems
- Electronic keyboards and computer accessories
- Cable receivers
Most electronics are disposable because they largely feature harmless substances. For instance, depending on the brand, most feature zinc plating, aluminum, copper, and gold elements. These are essentially not as much a threat to the environment as substances like lithium.
What You Can’t Dispose Of
So, what will your local e-waste handler decline? Most e-waste contains hazardous and potentially contaminative elements such as sulfur, mercury, and beryllium oxide. E-waste management companies will also not dispose of or recycle:
- E-waste containing lithium, such as batteries
- Regular home appliances that contain freon, such as refrigerators, dehumidifiers, and air conditioners. Exposure to large amounts of freon can lead to serious health issues like cardiac diseases
- Unsterilized medical equipment as it may lead to infections
- Microwave ovens; they hold an electric charge longer and can lead to potentially lethal shocks during recycling
Where to Dispose of E-Waste
Here’s where to take your e-waste:
Landfills are the most common option when it comes to e-waste disposal. A landfill, also known as a dump, is a site for waste disposal. In the past, landfills were largely unmonitored and a breeding ground for contamination. Nowadays, they are regulated and are complete with the infrastructure and employees to oversee the sorting and proper waste management.
They first sort the trash and remove recyclable waste like paper and plastic bottles from the waste. In the case of e-waste, they’ll identify the reusable pieces from the bunch and then send the damaged pieces to the landfill alongside all other unrecyclable waste. The biodegradable or reusable e-waste is then sent to a recycling center.
E-waste Recycling Centers
An alternative is to take your waste directly to an e-waste recycling center. Like landfill staff, e-waste handlers start the e-waste management process by sorting. They then manually shred the unrecyclable waste into smaller pieces. The resulting tiny waste bits are then placed on a conveyor belt where they’re further broken down. The rest of the process involves the following steps:
- Magnetic separation
- Water separation
Essential steps to take before disposing of your e-waste:
- Try upgrading or reusing before tossing it in the e-waste trash. You can quick-fix and continue using these common devices
- Format all damaged but functional pieces to remove your personal information
- If disposing of a completely damaged CPU, remove and erase the hard drive
- Take out the batteries, as most e-waste handlers will decline e-waste containing them
DIY Your E-Waste
As noted, you should try upgrading or reusing old electronics before throwing them away. Just because it’s old doesn’t mean it’s completely useless. With a bit of tweaking, you can transform most old or slightly damaged electronics into something valuable. Here are ideas to DIY some of your e-waste:
Recycle Laptop Batteries
Most laptops feature lithium-ion batteries, which get a straight no from e-waste handlers. Instead of trying to sneak them in during your next trip to an e-waste center, turn them into a high-capacity power source for your DIY soldering stations, or even lighting during your off-grid adventures, as explained in this Instructables guide.
You will need to fuse several laptop batteries to achieve your desired capacity, but be careful because Li-ion batteries tend to explode. If you’re considering disposing of your PC, check out these creative projects to reuse your old PC.
Salvage Parts From Old Printers
Your old printer might be slow and almost dysfunctional, but it’s a goldmine for free electronic parts you can reuse in other projects. For instance, depending on the brand, you may find up to four types of DC motors, stepper motors, fans, sensors, and switches. Additionally, printers are relatively easy to disassemble, and you will only need pliers, screwdrivers, some cutters, and a pair of disposable gloves. Check out this Instructables guide for a detailed tutorial. In addition to old printers, you can also salvage parts from a broken laptop.
Repurpose Broken Power Banks
Power banks make life easy but also wear out fast. If you own a smartphone, you’ve probably gone through a couple of them. Instead of dumping them and adding to our already massive e-waste problem, check out this Instructables guide for a repurposing idea.
While you’re at it, note that the battery in most broken or old power banks isn’t actually damaged; it’s the other parts that often need fixing. And these are quite easy to fix. In addition, you can opt to repurpose old TV remotes instead of throwing them.
Turn an Old TV Into an 80s-Themed Clock
Remember that black and white, hand-me-down TV you got a few years ago? It’s already taking up space, so why not DIY it into a clock and have it practically occupy some room in your home? You will need quite a number of components and tools, but the resulting clock will be worth your while, as shown in this Instructable guide. Besides, the code and the steps are already highlighted. So, once you get the tools, everything else is straightforward. Here are some more DIY ideas to upcycle old TVs.
Turn an Old Display Panel Into a Sleek Monitor
Just getting into the DIY space and looking for a project fit for your amateur skills? Try turning an old display panel into a sleek monitor. You’ll need to convert the monitor into a thin, secondary screen for the project first, and there are plenty of YouTube tutorials for that. Next, gather your supplies and start the woodwork process. Check out this Instructables tutorial for the rest of the process.
Do Your Part Today
E-waste is a problem common to modern society. That is why it’s paramount for each of us to take action because it’s an issue we created collectively. If everyone takes steps, such as DIYing reusable electronics into useful items, and disposing of the completely damaged pieces at a recycling center, the world will be a much better place. Start maximizing the tips and DIY project ideas above to do your part.