What is electronic waste? When we say electronic waste, we are not talking about spam emails or excess tweets from marketers. We are talking about those old laptops, cell phones, and rechargeable batteries that you have gathering in the drawer in your kitchen. While these items may no longer have use to you, they can still live on if properly recycled.
Please DO NOT toss your old or outdated electronic equipment and rechargeable batteries (e-Waste) into the trash!
When you understand the impact these materials have you will understand why it’s important to properly and responsibly dispose of e-waste. It’s the eco-friendly thing to do.
Toxic materials that you didn’t realize were in your electronic waste
Lead, cadmium, mercury, PVC, chlorinated solvents, and cancer causing flame retardants are all used in the manufacture of electronic equipment. This means any e-waste sent off to for incineration or to a landfill leach into the environment. Old tube-style televisions and computer monitors using a cathode ray tube (CRT) have historically contained several pounds of lead. Those not using lead have often adopted the use of mercury lamp technology.
If you find yourself with equipment that can still serve a purpose for someone else, then this option is certainly the most ideal. Finding a way to reuse electronic components ensures that items stays out of a landfill for a longer period of time and means less materials would need to be used in the creation of a replacement.
The most efficient way to find a new home for your equipment is to take advantage of the power of Craigslist. There are numerous organizations through the country that can help you find a home for your equipment, so rather than go into detail, please see the World Computer Exchange for more information.
Once you find yourself with equipment that is no longer working or simply too outdated for reuse, then it may be time to find a responsible recycler.
According to EPA estimates, the 2013 rate of consumer electronics recovery (recycling) was 40.4 percent (1.27 million tons) up from 30.6 percent in 2012 (1.00 million tons). While this improvement is in the right direction, it also means that over half of electronic waste is still making its way to landfill.
While many recyclers will send equipment off to developing nations to be forgotten, you can find responsible recyclers through the e-Steward network. You can find an e-Steward recycler near you here.
RECYCLE THROUGH MANUFACTURER
Let’s say you don’t have an e-Steward option near you, what then? In this case, you can also consider if the manufacturer has a recycle program that would be a viable option. Many consumer electronics companies have programs to take equipment back. Apple for example, has a program where you can recycle your equipment in exchange for a store gift card. Another option would be companies like Gazelle. They have given a second life to literally millions of devices since their inception. While Gazelle may be more ideal for hand-held electronic recycling, check with the manufacturer of your equipment to see if a program is available for you.
RECYCLE THROUGH RETAILERS
Many of the larger big box chains such as Best Buy or Staples have some form of electronic recycling program.
- The Best Buy recycle program takes back rechargeable batteries, as well as nearly all electronics and large appliances. You will want to check with your local store on program details and limitations. This program has collected over 1 billion pounds of electronics and appliances since it was put into place.
- Staples has a robust recycling program. They collect several electronic devices including ink and toner cartridges. In exchange, they provide store credit. Contact your local store for details.
CELL PHONES / HANDHELD DEVICES
Cell phone recycling has become too easy to not be done right. In many cases, consumers are able to mail them back (for free) to some recyclers. Here are two good nationwide options, with companies that have signed the e-Steward Pledge not to export e-waste to developing countries:
- Gazelle – A mentioned above, Gazelle will buy your old electronics and give them a new life. You can find out more here.
- Call2Recycle – While primarily focused on battery recycling, the people at Call2Recycle will also recycle your cell phones. You can find out more here.
REMEMBER TO REMOVE PERSONAL INFORMATION BEFORE DISPOSING OF ELECTRONIC WASTE
Whether you find a way to reuse or recycle your e-waste, please always remember to remove personal information. It is not enough to empty the recycle bin on your desktop – that only makes the data invisible but does not actually remove it. You must actively wipe out anything on those hard drives. Rather than get into the intricate steps on how to accomplish this activity, please see how about.com explains this is done.
The process to remove personal information is simple for cell phones such as the iPhone or other iOS devices. You go to the Settings app and select General, Reset and select the option to Erase All Content and Settings. Note that this process cannot be undone; but is quite effective for clearing an old phone prior to recycling it.