E-Waste is Both an Opportunity and a Hazard

E-Waste is Both an Opportunity and a Hazard

E-waste is both an economic opportunity and an environmental hazard for Indiana. These scraps are packed with valuable recyclable materials that some companies have invested big dollars to harvest. While at the same time, they are also loaded with toxic compounds that could be dangerous to living organisms and the ecosystem. In both cases, lots of activity has been happening lately to keep e-waste out of the garbage and into funnels for proper processing.

One can find e-waste (electronic waste) in just about any discarded electronic devices, large or small. Primary sources would include things like televisions, computers, printers, and cell phones – all adding up to millions of tons throughout the U.S. each year.

Recycling operators want to capture the useful and valuable materials in e-waste, like steel, gold, copper, tin, silver, and even platinum. It is estimated that more than $10 billion worth of precious metals from e-waste are dumped globally each year, according to studies from the United Nations.

Environmental organizations also have some big reasons to keep e-waste out of landfills, as they contain several toxic elements and other chemicals. Mercury, lead, cadmium, and hexavalent chromium (the nasty stuff popularized by the Erin Brockovich biopic) are all present. These can leech into the water table or the food chain where they can ultimately lead to scores of health problems.


Can’t Just Throw E-Waste Away, FYI

Did you know that many electronic items are prohibited from being discarded by Hoosiers? Indiana has regulations for proper e-waste disposal that applies to both households and businesses. Because the state classifies these materials has hazardous waste, they must be taken to an authorized facility. Also, note that businesses disposing more than 220 pounds of e-waste monthly will fall under federal regulations. For those interested, Indiana has an e-waste collectors list organized by county available online on IDEM’s website.


Big Investments, Capturing the Metals

E-waste recycling is becoming big business in Indiana with several major projects taking shape lately. In the latter months of last year, London, England-based Exurban announced plans to invest between $350 million and $400 million to build a zero-waste recycling facility for electronic scrap metals in Fort Wayne. The company designs smelters specifically designed for complex metallurgical waste recycling.

The new Exurban processing facility and corporate headquarters is expected to create up to 200 new Hoosier jobs. The project will be situated on 77 acres of industrial property in Fort Wayne. According to officials, the plant will set new standards for environmental performance, producing zero waste. Exurban plans to be fully operational in 2025.

“Exurban is committed to being a good neighbor and corporate citizen of Northeast Indiana,” said Wes Adams, co-founder of Exurban Indiana, LLC. “In the coming months we will do more to familiarize the community with how we have designed a recycling process that allows us to recover critical electronic metals without generating any waste, while providing high-paying jobs and tax revenue.”

Another major e-waste jobs announcement came late last year from ERI, a company that is not only a recycler but also one that’s certified in cybersecurity-focused hardware destruction. A few years ago, the company established a new 315,000-square-foot e-waste recycling facility in Plainfield, IN. This was a big expansion over the firm’s previous Indiana location, which was needed due to increasing demand and space required for an “enormous” shredder. Recently, that growth has continued, and ERI added 50 new long-term jobs near the end of 2022.

One fun announcement came from Green Wave Electronics, a national e-waste recycler based in Indianapolis. The company partnered with the Indiana County Waste Authority to plant thousands of trees throughout the United States. For every ton of e-waste collected by Marion County that is recycled through the Green Wave Electronics processing center in Indianapolis, the organization pledges to plant 10 trees to help promote reforestation in areas that have been degraded or deforested. The company’s goal of recycling thirty-million pounds of electronic waste and planting over 100,000 trees over the course of the next year is off to a great start with local businesses, schools, and county waste authorities signing up to join the cause.


Less Trash, More Cash

The more Indiana can keep e-waste out of our trash and landfills, the more chances we’ll have to profit and keep our environment protected. There’s every reason to do so, as recycling is not only ethically important but quickly becoming big business in our state. It’s treasure from trash in every sense, and an exciting moment for environmental stewardship in Indiana.

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