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What Happens To E-Waste When It Gets Recycled?

Updated: Apr 28, 2022

We’ve learned by now not to get too attached to our electronics. We may love our laptops, but we also know that they’ll slow down, refuse to start, or get crushed in the parking garage. It’s the circle of life. But our equipment deserves better than eternity in a landfill—and it still might be useful in some way. What happens to e-waste when it gets recycled? There are several possibilities.

Data Removal

When you call an e-waste recycler, you might need a guarantee that any private data is destroyed from the device. That could mean shredding, overwriting, or some other method. If the information is particularly sensitive, you can request a Certificate of Erasure that complies with maximum security standards.


Used equipment isn’t automatically retired if it can be repaired or refurbished. Environmental concerns have put a priority on outdated assets that could still be useful for someone else. Your recycler might even have a buyback program so that you can salvage some cash out of the exchange.


In most cases, electronics are more valuable if you separate them by hand and resell them as raw materials. They’re broken down into smaller components, placed on a conveyor belt, and either sorted by machine or by hand. These materials include:

  • Glass

  • Plastics

  • Metals

Sometimes, the electronics even contain precious metals like gold and copper.


Plastics are separated further by color and sent to a specialized recycling facility. The metals—including silver, palladium, and aluminum—are melted down. Reusing these metals cuts down on the need to mine more. Because the process of refining and manufacturing metals produces greenhouse gas emissions, the planet gets a break.

Now that you know what happens to e-waste when it gets recycled, some parts of your old electronics could make their way back to you in a new form. If you’re looking for a company to handle your e-waste recycling in San Jose, California, Evergreen IT Solutions can help you find a method that benefits both you and the planet. Contact us to find out more about our services.

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