Large Cardboard Boxes | Recycling of Electronics and Hazardous Materials

Recycling of Electronics and Hazardous Materials

When one loses a laptop and starts searching for options, all sorts of information becomes available. One is that getting a laptop with a matte screen is nearly impossible anymore. All are glossy and the traditional business travel machines are extra expensive and rare. So much for the bad news. Good news is that there have been major improvements on the packaging. That includes the cardboard boxes, polystyrene, foamy keyboard/screen protectors and the actual elements which go inside the circuitry. These last internal elements are actually regulated quite heavily and now there are extensive test procedures to ensure that they live up to the legal base requirements.

There are a few bodies, standards and policies which are relevant. Restriction of Hazardous Substances (ROHS) Directive is ratified in 2003 in Europe and compliance becomes mandatory for all member EU countries in 2006. Other countries such as Turkey, choose to abide by it also. It regulates application of six controlled materials which are considered hazardous. These were briefly touched on in the post on solar compactors– mercury, cadmium ,lead, polybrominated biphenyls (used for fire prevention), hexavalent chromium and polybrominated diphenyl ether. Appliances and devices which fall under this regulation are across all verticals of consumer and enterprise electronics, toys, telephone equipment, alarm and signaling systems, lighting, dispensers and semiconductors. Some solar panels and medical equipment are exempt from this regulation due to trade specifics.

The ROHS directive is closely in conjunction with Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment directive. The latter picks up from where ROHS leaves and regulates proper recycling, reduce and collection of regulated items. The trouble comes from a fact similar to the North Atlantic garbage patch where a huge number of plastics and polymers of all sorts have surfaced on the Atlantic with a similar problem in the Pacific Ocean. While electronics are great and help us stay connected, telecommute and have many other advantages – they have spread too much. With the development of the BRIC countries with their numerous population and close to middle class status – there will be more and more devices manufactured and ultimately recycled or disposed of. This regulation of hazardous materials which go into electronics is a step in the right direction since this e-waste will no longer need to be treated as special and need attention and separation.

Electronics manufacturers have in a sense taken upon themselves on how to implement this directive – mostly in marketing terms. There are many devices which now claim that they are ROHS compliant or that the circuit boards, panels, battery are free of hazmats and their packaging is eco friendly and the small cardboard boxes come from recycled fibers. It is a bit controversial since some of the controlled materials are actually used as fire retardant when mixed in polymers. Since computers tend to run at high temperatures, this is an important factor. Hopefully the new electronics will be safe to the environment and to users also.

large cardboard boxes

Eco friednly packaged and manufactured notebook

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