UNITED STATES May 31 2015 9:00 AM
The facts about e-waste are staggering. According to DoSomething.org:
-- Up to 50 million tons of electronic or e-waste are thrown away every year.
-- Electronic waste is the fastest growing category of waste in the United States.
-- Only 12.5 percent of that waste actually gets recycled.
-- Electronics are full of toxic materials such as lead, cadmium, mercury and fire retardants. While e-waste makes up only 2 percent of the total waste stream, it also accounts for up to 70 percent of the toxic materials we throw away.
Kind of depressing, right? But, as the website’s name implies, there is plenty you can do about the electronic waste problem. You can reduce the number of electronic items you purchase; buy used when possible; and keep your devices as long as possible (rather than ditching them the moment the newest model comes out). When essential items like computers, cell phones, TVs and video game systems move from being useful items to electronic waste, don’t put them in the trash. Instead, find a qualified recycler. As our appetite for electronic gadgets grows, so does the ability to recycle these harmful materials. Here are several places to look for e-waste recycling programs.
Major retailers such as Best Buy, Staples and Sears offer electronic waste recycling programs for various products. Best Buy takes the widest variety of items, including computers, car GPS systems, cameras, stereo equipment, video game systems and fitness items. Staples accepts computers, printers, peripherals like mice and keyboards, CD and DVD players, cell phones and external hard drives. If you buy a new appliance from Sears, they can typically take your old one away. Some True Value hardware locations take rechargeable batteries and other items. Other stores in your area may take electronics items as well. With any of these retailers, it’s a good idea to check with your local store and make sure they really accept these items before loading up your car.
Your local solid waste district
Your city or county is likely to offer some kind of electronic recycling program, especially if you live in one of the 25 states that has passed an e-waste recycling law. States with electronics recycling laws include Connecticut, Hawaii, Texas and Maine. Find out if your state is on the list by clicking here. The most common place to find an electronics recycling facility is at your region’s household hazardous waste center. However, it’s also possible there’s a stand-alone facility in your region. Visit the website for your city or county recycling agency for more information. While you’re there, check out the agency’s electronic waste recycling rules and regulations. Many household hazardous waste centers are only open a few days a week, or only accept electronic waste on certain days.
Electronic waste recycling events
Regions lacking a permanent electronic waste recycling facility may rely on occasional collection events to recycle e-waste. Typically, these are set up in a parking lot and people are invited to drive over with all their unwanted electronics loaded. There is often a fee for this service, so inquire about that before you go. Also, it’s worth noting private companies, schools and nonprofits often host these events, not government agencies. Don’t limit your search for electronic waste collection events to your local waste collection entity.
The Internet has made it much easier for people to recycle electronic waste. Hundreds of companies advertise their recycling services online, then encourage people to mail in unwanted items. Those that pay for your old electronic gear can even offer quotes through email. Using an electronic waste mail-in service is great for small or hard-to-recycle items like computer disks, digital cameras, pagers, cell phones and batteries.
Apple, Samsung, LG and Dell are just a few examples of the companies that will take back their products once you’re finished with them. Some of these companies will even give you a credit toward the purchase of a new piece of technology. Each company’s recycling policies differ, so visit their website to learn the best way to return your equipment and exactly what they will accept. When you are purchasing a new piece of technology, you might research the company’s recycling policies in advance to ensure what you’re buying can easily be recycled.
Businesses will find there are many resources for recycling large quantities of electronic waste. Electronic Recyclers International is one company that specializes in responsible electronic waste collection and recycling. A good company will come to your location and remove everything you’d like to recycle at a reasonable price. Some places may even be able to pay you. If you choose to contract with an electronics recycling company for disposal, make sure they guarantee they’ll destroy any data left on computers, external hard drives, cell phones and other items. Computers can contain proprietary information that is vital to your company’s success. They can also contain customer data, financial information, credit card numbers and plenty of other information you wouldn’t want anyone else to have.
Many nonprofits offer electronic waste recycling services. It’s common for these groups to focus on reuse, since their mission often involves giving computers to schools, low-income children, retirement homes and/or people with disabilities. However, they have to find a way to recycle the things they can’t reuse. As a result, they’re likely to have good recycling policies in place as well.