Electronics waste, often called E-Scrap or E-Waste, is what becomes of our old cell phones, broken laptops, and other obsolete hardware. This type of scrap includes a variety of different, valuable materials that can be reused if handled correctly – including copper, tin, iron, gold, silver, and aluminium. Unlike most other scrap, e-scrap often contains whole components that are immediately ready for reuse, along with the recyclable materials.

E-waste in the alley, Silver Spring, MD. Public domain photo by Takomabibelot, February 7, 2009.


A 2013 study published by the U.S. International Trade Commission in 2013 found that the US electronics recycling industry processed more than 4.4 million tons of used and end-of-life electronics equipment annually and that 83% of the electronic products collected in the US are reused and recycled here in America. The raw materials that are saved through the recycling process – like scrap steel, aluminium, copper, lead, circuit boards, plastics, and glass, are used in all sorts of brand new products – including new electronics!

Recycling E-waste. Photo by CODIGO82, October 22, 2015. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.


Recycling 1 million laptops saves the energy equivalent to the electricity used by 3,657 U.S. homes in a year and by recycling one million cell phones 75 pounds of gold, 772 pounds of silver, and 35,274 pounds of copper can be recovered and reused.

Infineon evaluation board pcb front. Photo by 28Maestro, April 10, 2017. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.


The U.S. recycling industry annually process more than 5 million tons of used and end-of-life electronics – cell phones, televisions, computers, copiers, fax machines, music players, and tablets.

One metric ton of electronic scrap from personal computers contains more gold than that recovered from 17 tons of gold ore.

Most e-scrap in the US is handled by companies who are members of two associations: the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) and the Coalition for American Electronics Recycling (CAER).