Here at Fast Haul, we are HUGE fans of electronic waste (or e-waste) recycling. The electronics we use and replace on a daily basis are filled with some of the most harmful and toxic chemicals on the planet, and can wreck havoc on the environment. Although recently, another great reason to increase e-waste recycling efforts has come to light. In a recent piece by the National Defense Magazine, e-waste recycling programs benefit the U.S. defense system by curbing the amount of counterfeit parts that can in the electronic components they use.
The U.S. military depends heavily on electronic components in their defense systems; you can find them in thousands of pieces of equipment like aircraft, submarines, night vision goggles, thermal weapons systems, and helicopters. You would think (and hope) that the US military only uses the highest quality electronics and technology in their equipment, but as noted by the story, more then 1 million pieces of counterfeit electronic components were identified in US military equipment in 2009 and 2010.
You might be wondering how this can happen, and an investigation by US Senate Armed Services Committee has uncovered why. The committee traced various supply chains back to the Guangdong Province in China, known as the “epicenter of counterfeit activities”. The outfits that make these counterfeit components rely heavily on e-waste shipped over from the west to provide “feedstock” (i.e. the raw materials). Once the materials are collected, they are subjected to a plethora of harmful and destructive techniques before being implemented in “new” equipment (i.e. being soaked in acid, heated over open fires, left outside in the rain, etc.). These techniques make the components extremely unreliable and susceptible to failure.
Your next question might be “how can I make sure my e-waste doesn’t contribute to a malfunctioning missile or fighter jet crashing?” Well, the answer is to do your research before disposing of you e-waste and make sure the recycler can show you proof that your e-waste is being handled responsibly.