Where Gadgets Go to Die: Facility Strips, Rips and Recycles

When gadgets die, they go to a place like the one pictured here — if theyre lucky.

Recently, the Environmental Protection Agency came under fire for allowing U.S. tech companies to export millions of pounds of hazardous, used electronics to Asian countries where they are recycling with a lot less environmental oversight.

Negative press, new e-waste legislation and a depressed economy are pressuring tech manufacturers into assuming far greater recycling responsibly to show they’re part of the green movement. As a bonus, domestic recycling lets them save some money on materials, such as precious metals, while they’re at it. Manufacturers who handle recycling responsibly in the United States work with professional facilities like this one, where old gadgets are dismantled using a part-man, part-mechanical process.

With 15 locations in the United States, Sims Recycling Solutions is one of the world’s largest electronics scrap recyclers. Pictured here is the demanufacturing center of the companys Roseville, California facility, where workers disassemble everything from printers, cameras and computers to Jumbotrons for their reusable materials. The facility receives roughly 150,000 pounds of used electronics a day.

Follow along for a photographic tour of the Sims facility, where youll learn exactly what happens to unwanted gadgets as theyre dismantled, their components sorted and their raw materials melted down for scrap.

Workers separate parts into bins based on their materials as well as whether they have metal in them, and, if so, what kind of metal. There are roughly 60 full-time workers at Sims who handle disassembly; the nature of their jobs require them to attend monthly, company-sponsored safety meetings. Parts that are too difficult to dismantle by hand are separated and sent to the onsite shredder for grinding and separation using various automated technologies.

New junk arrivals roll in on a conveyor belt, and workers throw the gadgets into their respective boxes. Sims employees say they occasionally receive some awesome antiques, such as the 8-bit Commodore 64 home computer.

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