When you step inside a facility like this one in upstate New York, you’d see a series of conveyor belts transporting heaps of electronics — ranging from hard drives, laptops, old TVs, printers, medical devices, etc. — to and from shredders and sorters. It’s called e-waste, which is made of millions of broken, dead, and obsolete gadgets, and sometimes much of the gadgets are either too toxic and/or too valuable to just chunk into a dumpster, sooooooo, they get recycled. At Hugo Neu Recycling, formerly the largest recycler of scrap metal in the country, they now specialize in e-waste, and much of their clientele are businesses who want/need to offload their junk. Plus, it’s also a grim and sobering reminder of just HOW MUCH waste is being produced by our society’s obsession with latest and greatest of electronics.
First, the junk gets dumped into Hugo Neu’s in-feed belt and carried to straight to the shredder, and this is AFTER any hazardous materials were already safely removed. Then after they’re broken down into teeny-weeny bits and pieces, they shards are later sent to various sorting mechanisms that separate the junk into piles based on material through a series of magnets, screens, weight separation, and human supervision (because the machines aren’t perfect….YET!) and recycled to the best extent possible.
Unfortunately, there’s still a huge amount of e-waste that is still being tossed into dumps and landfills, with ZERO proper disposal of hazardous materials. While efforts to collect e-waste are rising, it will take time before they become as easy and widespread as recycling aluminum cans and plastic bottles.