Recycling Electrical Breakers and Other Equipment

Mar 29, 2022 | Uncategorized

Are you an electrical contractor wondering how to put that old circuit breaker into good use? Are you an HVAC contractor who has recently uninstalled a faulty air conditioner? If you are, you’ll be pleased to know that there are ways you could convert the air conditioner’s parts into new products. With this post, we’ll guide you on how to recycle and properly dispose of electrical equipment.

Some of the most common electrical components that you might need to recycle include:

  • Electrical breakers
  • Electrical disconnects
  • Circuit breakers
  • Motor controls
  • Motor starters
  • Fuses

Have you ever wondered in which appliances you can find a circuit breaker, electrical breakers, or electrical disconnects? Here are some of them: 

  • Large household appliances: Freezers, washing machines, fridges, dishwashers, etc.
  • IT and Telecommunication equipment: Phones, laptops, PCs, printers, scanners, photocopiers, etc.
  • Small household items: Coffee-makers, toasters, irons, hairdryers, etc.
  • Lighting equipment: Fluorescent lamps
  • HVAC equipment: Furnaces, air handlers, heat pumps, air conditioners, ventilators, etc.
  • Medical appliances
  • Accumulators and batteries

Why recycle electric equipment?

The most important reason for recycling any kind of material is to conserve the environment. By recycling electrical breakers or electrical disconnects, you’ll have prevented pollution and reduced your carbon footprint. Additionally, electrical appliances consist of a variety of valuable reusable materials, such as steel, copper, and aluminum, among others.

For instance, recycling a lead-acid battery can involve neutralizing sulphuric acid, which turns it into water. Otherwise, it is processed and converted into sodium sulfate to make other products like laundry detergent.

Moreover, retracting valuable materials will decrease the demand for raw materials. Decreased demand will in turn promote the conservation of natural resources. Production costs will also be reduced by preventing manufacturers from producing appliances from scratch. Another advantage of electronic recycling is that it keeps electronics out of landfills.

Recycling will help improve the health of humans and animals. How? By recycling your old electronic devices, you will help keep air and water clean and safe for animals and humans.

An added advantage of recycling is that your data will be fully secured. This is because before recycling your electronic devices, you always contract professionals who will ensure that your data is fully secure. The data experts will also provide you with the relevant documents to prove that your data is secure.

How to recycle a circuit breaker

If you are an electrical contractor, you need to recycle the defective circuit breaker that you replace while repairing residential or commercial electrical systems. Most electrical breakers contain copper and silver, which are valuable metals that could be converted into new products. Copper is very valuable and can have a lot of uses once recycled.

Additionally, there are special alloys that contain cadmium, which can sometimes be found on the brazing and contacts of electrical breakers. This element is highly toxic and should be handled with caution.

How to scrap electrical breakers

Below is a simple process that you’ll undertake to harvest the metals and valuables in your circuit breaker.

  • Break the plastic cover that holds the circuit together. Alternatively, you could drill the rivets out.
  • Bend the metal holding the contacts and peel off the silver contact using pliers.
  • Use a magnet to separate the magnetic pieces from the non-magnetic ones in the electrical breakers.
  • Retrieve aluminum pieces from the back terminal.

Besides the metals in the electrical breakers an electrical disconnects, you also need to collect the plastic components. Specifically, you need to retrieve the plastic from the covers of the electrical breakers and take it to a recycling firm. There, it will be melted and remade into new products.

How to recycle electric motors

As an HVAC or electrical contractor, you could retrieve electric motors from old heating and ventilation systems. Why bother? They contain components that can be scrapped to keep the defective electronics out of landfills. Electric motors can be found in motor starters. The different types of motor controls include:

  • Autotransformer starter
  • Star delta starter
  • Soft starter
  • Stator resistance starter

Most of the electrical devices contain electric motors that you could recycle. Such devices include industrial fans, HVAC pumps, blowers, disc drives, starters, generators, among others. If you are an electrician with some of these faulty devices, consider recycling them by removing and reusing the valuable elements.

What are the components of an electric motor?

The following are some of the components of motor controls that you should consider recycling.

  • Copper windings
  • Shaft
  • Bearings and flanges
  • Stator and rotor
  • Commutator
  • Terminals
  • Case

Recyclers will buy the damaged devices and put them into better use. Electric motors are recyclable since most of their parts are metallic. Some of the metallic materials found in motor starters include cast iron, steel, aluminum, and copper.

Materials such as copper and aluminum are valuable and could fetch you a good amount of money. For instance, copper is estimated to be worth $8,800 per metric ton in 2022. Granted, you’ll have to find a lot of motors to get to a ton of anything, but it all adds up.

How to scrap electric motors

The best way to scrap motor controls is to collect them on a large scale. If you are an HVAC contractor or electrician, therefore, you could wait for the faulty devices to pile up before scrapping them. Here is a simple electric motor scrapping process:

  1. Remove the motor from the rest of the device, but make sure it hasn’t been used for at least an hour before you do this. It’ll help you avoid electric shock.
  2. Retrieve and separate the components.
  3. Group them according to their materials, e.g. aluminum, copper, and steel.
  4. Deliver the materials to their various recycling locations and recycle them.

If you are unable to carry out the scrapping yourself, call in a recycling expert to assist you.

How to recycle electrical disconnects

Electrical disconnects are often found in air conditioners, heaters, and other HVAC electrical appliances. Like most electronics, you should consider recycling the electrical disconnects and switches to retrieve valuable materials.

There are two types of electrical disconnects: Electrical disconnect switches and battery disconnect switches.

The electrical disconnects can further be divided into the following categories:

  • Fusible disconnect switches
  • Non-fusible switches

Electrical disconnects contain valuable materials like copper and aluminum that can be recycled.

How to recycle electric fuses

As an electrical contractor, you probably have come across different types of fuses. The common types of fuses are DC fuses and AC fuses. Fuses are found on appliances such as dishwashers, electric kettles, microwaves, and washing machines, among others.

If you are wondering what to do with the blown fuses or electrical breakers from different appliances, you could recycle the various materials found in them. The most common materials you will find on these electrical disconnects are brass, copper, zinc, and aluminum. Consider scrapping them to retrieve these valuable materials. If you need assistance with the process, consider hiring an expert to assist you or take the elements to a recycling plant.

Facts about the worth of metallic materials

The useful metals you extract from electrical breakers, electrical disconnects, a circuit breaker, and other appliances are estimated to be of the following value:

  • The market value for aluminum is projected to reach $250 billion by 2026
  • Zinc is projected to cost $2,822 per ton in 2022
  • By January 2022, the average monthly price of silver was $23.16 per troy ounce
  • In January 2022, the value of iron ore was approximately $133 per metric ton

From the available projections, the price of these metallic materials is set to remain relatively stable. As an HVAC contractor, you could earn some extra coins over time once you recycle electrical equipment.

Alternative ways to dispose of electrical equipment

Other types of electrical waste, whether produced from a circuit breaker, electrical breakers, or electrical disconnects, can be disposed of using other ways. Some of the other methods include:

Return old electronic devices to retailers

Some retailers or companies will accept old electronic appliances that you purchased from their stores. This mostly happens when you want to purchase new appliances. Most of these retailers will actively ensure the appliances are recycled.

Hire disposal services

If you have several pieces of old electrical appliances, we recommend that you hire disposal services. They will pick up your electronic waste, ensure proper recycling, and dispose of it following the authorities’ regulations.

Donate your old appliances

Some people could benefit from your outdated electronic appliances. You could donate your devices to education institutions or charitable organizations — assuming they’re still in working order, that is.

Sell off your outdated appliances

Selling electronic devices that you no longer use will help you declutter your workspace. You could use online sites to find buyers or conduct a garage sale.

Dangers of electronic waste to the environment and people

Many electronic appliances contain hazardous chemicals. They pose great risks to the environment, animals, and people. For instance, some heavy metals could cause diseases such as cancer when ingested. Other elements are known to cause respiratory and skin-related health issues. Some of these toxic chemicals include:

  • Lead
  • Cadmium
  • Lithium
  • Mercury
  • Flame retardants

During the extraction of devices or their manufacturing, you could come into contact with hazardous chemicals, such as cadmium, which result in serious health conditions like cancer.

Moreover, elements like mercury and lead cause negative health effects on the human body. The body parts affected by these chemicals include the brain, heart, liver, kidney, and the skeletal system. Therefore, it is critical that electrical waste be handled and disposed of with caution.

Additionally, when the hazardous chemicals enter the ecosystem, they contaminate water, air, and soil. We’ll cover that in the following sections.

Negative effects of e-waste on soil

When electrical waste is improperly disposed of, the flame retardants and heavy metals in them seep into the soil. The chemicals will contaminate the plants growing on the soil and the groundwater too. The contaminated crops will then cause negative health effects when consumed by animals or people. The soil may also cease to be productive, thus leaving the land bare and prone to erosion.

Large particles that result from the burning and shredding of electrical waste are deposited into the soil. This waste, which is usually non-biodegradable, will remain on the ground for a long period, thus affecting millions of microorganisms.

Negative effects of electronic waste on water

Heavy metals will leak through the earth and reach groundwater. The hazardous chemicals will eventually find their way to rivers, streams, and lakes. From here, the toxins will spread over masses of water bodies, thus affecting animals, plants, and people, even when they are far from the original pollution site.

The toxins will kill freshwater and marine organisms, thus causing an imbalance in the ecosystem. Additionally, the contaminated water will cause serious health conditions to people and animals when ingested.

Negative effects of hazardous chemicals on air

When electronic waste is shredded or melted, air contamination will occur. How? During the melting process, toxins that cause air pollution and respiratory problems are released. The toxic particles can travel for miles causing great damage to people and animals.

Negative effects of electronic waste on humans

Toxic components, such as mercury, cadmium, and lithium, will cause adverse effects when it comes to human health. These health effects include heart, liver, brain, and kidney damage. The chemicals could also impact the nervous system and reproductive system in humans.

Challenges of electronic recycling

When recycling electronic appliances, you might encounter the following setbacks:

Export of e-waste to developing countries

First-world countries experience an overload of electronic waste materials. In a bid to rid themselves of the waste, they export their electronic waste to developing countries. This causes various health and environmental problems in these countries.

Most electronic waste still goes into landfills.

The current level of electronic waste recycling is still insufficient in most countries. This means that much of the electrical waste is disposed of incorrectly. More electronic recycling firms are needed to handle all the waste produced. Additionally, there is a need to continue providing more information on the dangers of improper e-waste disposal.

Most electronic devices are not designed for reuse

A number of electronic devices are not designed to be recycled. This means that users have to buy a new gadget instead of repairing the old one. Manufacturers should consider using materials that are easily recyclable to build electronic devices.

A drop in the value of electronic materials

Materials such as copper, silver, and zinc are likely to drop in value. Why? As manufacturers produce smaller gadgets, less material is used on them. This will demotivate users from scrapping their electronic devices.

Electrical waste, whether from electrical breakers or circuit breakers, is hazardous to the environment. Additionally, it poses great health risks to the population. Recycling and proper disposal of electronic waste, therefore, will go a long way towards the conservation of the environment. The electrical equipment that you could recycle includes electrical breakers, circuit breaker, motor controls, motor starters, and electrical disconnects. If you require help with recycling, call us today.