To help prevent electronics from ending up in landfills, there have been many recycling events held around the U.S. that are sponsored by electronics makers and are sometimes sponsored by companies who plan to recycle the products for their plastics, glass, and precious metals.
USA Today reports that activists are warning that items collected at free electronic recycling events are often ending up in salvage yards in developing nations. Barbara Kyle, national coordinator for the Electronics TakeBack Coalition says, “If nobody is paying (the collectors) to take this stuff, especially if they're getting a lot of televisions, then they are very likely exporting because that's how they make the economics work.”
The fear activists have is that the electronics that end up in developing nations will be recycled by laborers who will be exposed to toxic substances and where the toxic substances could leech into the ground water. The laborers who harvest the electronics are only paid dollars per day according to activists.
Don’t feel bad for receiving free recycling services though. The companies recycling the obsolete electronics are not doing it out of the kindness of their hearts or to make the world a better place -- it’s done for profits.
Most of the companies offering free recycling are mining the products for precious metals like gold and silver. Some electronics recycling firms mine more gold form e-waste like cell phones than is produced from a gold mine.