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Look | What Happens to Your Electronics: Inside An E-Recycling Plant

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

After shredding, the chewed-up pieces of computers and other e-waste are sorted by magnets and other machines. (Tracey Samuelson/WNYC)

Electronics manufacturers are required by law to take back their products for recycling when consumers are done with them. But figuring out how to turn a product over for recycling – and how to get it there – is the job of the consumer.

Consumers can look up the drop-off locations for a given manufacturer on The New York Department of Environmental Conservation website (PDF).

Some companies and nonprofits also offer free e-waste recycling:

•    Goodwill accepts computers and peripherals (keyboard, mice, etc.) of any brand. Some locations also accept TVs. The Salvation Army will also take any product by any brand.

•    The Lower East Side Ecology Center opened a warehouse by the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn earlier this year. They accept any e-waste, regardless of manufacturer, and host one-day collection events throughout the city.

•    At Best Buy, consumers can drop off up to three items per household per day, regardless of manufacturer, though there can be limitations on size.

•    The 4th Bin will pick up e-waste from consumers and businesses for a fee, typically between $10 and $125.

•    The non-profit Basil Action Network runs a program to evaluate the standards and ethics of e-waste recyclers. Their website offers a list of companies that have achieved their e-Stewart certification.

•     For more information on drop-off locations, see the city's site

    A separate state law requires that all cell phone service providers accept cell phones for reuse or recycling.

    Tracey Samuelson/WNYC

    4th Bin co-founders Michael Deutsch and John Kirsch load e-waste into a rented U-Haul truck. They weigh and inventory each item before trucking it to their Harlem facility, where it is sorted by type and prepared for pick-up by Mount Vernon-based We Recycle!, a recycler that deals exclusively with e-waste.

    Tracey Samuelson/WNYC
    John Kirsch picks keyboards out of a bin of e-waste to weigh and load onto his truck.
    Tracey Samuelson/WNYC
    Kirsch detangles the chord of an old keyboard before stacking it on top of other e-waste items for weighing.
    Tracey Samuelson/WNYC

    Kirsch helps unload e-waste at the company’s storage facility in Harlem. The items — including a Gateway computer from the New School, tagged with a yellow sticker — were collected from nine different pick-up locations and will be grouped by type to prepare for recycling.

    Tracey Samuelson/WNYC

    Inside 4th Bin’s Harlem storage facility, e-waste is grouped by type and prepared for recycling.

    Tracey Samuelson/WNYC

    Michael Deutsch, right, straddles an old Gateway computer tower in his company’s Harlem storage facility, beside operations manager Aristides Baez, left. WNYC tagged the computer with a yellow sticker in order to follow it through the recycling process.

    Tracey Samuelson/WNYC
    We Recycle! driver Hector Gonzalez picks-up a box of e-waste collected by the 4th Bin and prepares to transport it back to his company’s warehouse in Mount Vernon, N.Y.
    Tracey Samuelson/WNYC

    In the We Recycle! warehouse in Mount Vernon, N.Y., the first stop in the recycling process for this Gateway computer is the harvest department. Robert Marcial, a disassembly technician, removes the machine’s circuit boards. 

    Tracey Samuelson/WNYC
    We Recycle! supervisor Carlos Jorge prepares to drop the Gateway computer on a conveyor belt leading into a large shredder.
    Tracey Samuelson/WNYC
    The Gateway computer, along with a medium-sized printer, rides a conveyor belt leading into a large shredder.
    Tracey Samuelson/WNYC
    After shredding, the chewed-up pieces of computers and other e-waste are sorted by magnets and other machines.
    Tracey Samuelson/WNYC
    After shredding, the chewed-up pieces of computers and other e-waste are sorted by magnets and other machines.
    Tracey Samuelson/WNYC
    After shredding, the chewed-up pieces of computers and other e-waste are sorted by magnets and other machines.
    Tracey Samuelson/WNYC
    Shredded pieces of metal from e-waste are grouped together and bagged. We Recycle! will sell the pieces to another recycler, who will melt the metal down to make new products and devices.
    Tracey Samuelson/WNYC
    Shredded pieces of circuit boards from e-waste are grouped together and bagged. We Recycle! will sell the pieces to another recycler, who will recover precious metals from the boards.
    Tracey Samuelson/WNYC
    Shredded pieces of plastic from e-waste are grouped together and bagged. We Recycle! will sell the pieces to other recyclers, who will melt the plastic down to make new products and devices.
    Tracey Samuelson/WNYC
    A bag full of shredded circuit boards is ready to be sold to another recycler, who will recover precious metals from the boards.

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    Comments [2]

    gm rabiul awal from Bangladesh

    this is a electronics factory. many many thanks.

    Jun. 12 2012 01:08 PM
    Laura from Brooklyn

    This is very helpful, thank you!

    Apr. 04 2012 09:29 AM

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