How many electronics cables do you have just lying around? Probably a lot! Worldwide, it’s estimated that we will throw away 40 million tons of electronic waste this year alone, including the wires and cables we use to charge our phones, power our computers, and keep entertainment centers, well, entertaining. We’ve teamed up with Eland Cables to explain why it’s so important to recycle old wires and cables rather than just throw them away.
Too Much Electronic Trash
Electronic waste is the fastest growing sector of the waste stream. In fact, 85% of our e-waste is sent to landfills and incinerators, and that’s not good for the planet. Electronics contain heavy metals and plastic made of various compounds that, as they break up over time, get released into the air, water and soil,potentially polluting the water we tap for drinking, washing and cleaning.
Communities are responding as the problem gets worse. Throwing e-waste away, even if it’s “only” electrical wires and cables, is illegal in the UK, much of Europe, and numerous jurisdictions in the United States.
Pollution aside, there’s another reason why it doesn’t make sense to trash e waste like wires and cables. They contain important and difficult to get metals like copper. Mining the copper needed to make cable pretty much destroys the environment around where the mines occur. Deep, open copper pits in places like Butte, Montana are infamous for how ugly, polluting and destructive they are.
Though other rare metals are used to manufacture wires and cable as well, copper is ultimately the most widely used electrical and electronic conductor on Earth. In the past few years, copper has become scarce, leading to higher prices, which in turns raises our cost of buying electronics, as well as more copper mines.
Recycling old wires and cables is one way to reclaim copper without all that environmental destruction.
How to Recycle Old Wires and Cables in Your Area
Copper is selling for a little over $3 a pound. Any metal recycling center will be happy to accept your copper-cored wires, and the more the better. BestBuy, Staples and other stores that electronics will help out with electronics recycling, too.
In fact, they’ll accept most of your small electronics, in addition to wires and cables. You can also sell your used electronics here.
Except for some Apple products, most of your home entertainment cords and cables can be used with other devices. For example, the cord I use to charge my Kindle Fire can also charge my Samsung Galaxy phone.
New electronics come with their own power cables but not necessarily HDMI or coax. It’s a good idea to keep one set of back-up cables you can use for your devices. Whatever you can’t reuse yourself, ask your friends and family if they can.
Many schools and non-profits happily accept electronics donations, even if all you have is the odd power cord or old Ethernet cable that wasn’t quite long enough.
STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics – programs across the country are always looking for ways to save a buck on getting the items they need for their programs. Simply Google STEM or National Center for Electronics Recycling to find out what’s available in your area.
Last but not least, you can always visit Earth911 to learn more about where to recycle electronics in your neighborhood.
NOTE: Paid partnerships enable us to bring you expert advice and information at no additional cost to you. Our editorial opinions remain our own. Thanks!