UNITED STATES July 05 2015 10:00 AM
By Rachelle Gordon
Electronic waste, also known as e-waste, is defined as any unwanted electric device – anything from old cells to printers to tube televisions. The growing number of broken devices ending up in landfills is causing a global crisis that many cities and countries are not yet prepared to deal with. In fact, it a recent report from United Nations University revealed nearly 90 percent of the world’s e-waste is illegally dumped or traded. The heavy metals and other toxic materials inside these devices put the environment and its inhabitants at extreme risk.
What devices can and should be properly recycled?
The simple answer to this is that nearly any and all electronic devices can be reused, recycled or repurposed in some way. Some nonprofit organizations fix old cell phones and donate them to people in need. Big box electronics stores will often accept unwanted devices and may even offer credit for them. There are also lots of special e-waste recycling centers or days in different communities across the country – see what’s available in your area! The following five devices should always be recycled.
1. Computer Towers
Old computers, even if they appear to be broken, should never be tossed in the garbage bin. Not only are there tons of different toxic materials deep within the machine, but there may also be your personal data. Unfortunately, cybercriminals keep an eye out for old computer towers, taking out the hard drives in order to crack into them and steal any information they can. To protect yourself, find a legitimate drop site or recycling center for your tower. Before you drop it off, check out how your recycler of choice wipes hard drives and destroys them. By doing your due diligence, you can be sure your data is inaccessible to data thieves.
2. Cell Phones
According to studies done by mobile carriers, the average American gets a new cell phone every two years. Extreme tech fans may even switch devices more often, leaving many people to wonder – where are all of these unwanted phones going? Most carriers offer trade-in opportunities for devices that may still work but maybe aren’t the latest and greatest. Many companies also offer buy-back programs for unwanted phones and tablets – consumers can order mail-in boxes from retailers such as Staples that allow them to then send their old electronics in for credit or cash depending on the program. If you have a super old phone, there are charities that will accept them to give to those in need. Just make sure to re-set your phone or partner with a recycler that will wipe it before it leaves your possession, or once again your data may be in danger.
Ever since the invention of flat-screen LCD TVs, old tube televisions of the past have become practically obsolete. How many times have you seen an older TV sitting on the corner, hoping to be picked up by a passerby? Unfortunately, not many people in this country desire bulky tube televisions, but they still need to go somewhere. The components in older tube televisions are quite toxic, and that’s why they need to be recycled properly. When TVs end up in landfills, they often break open, spilling contents into the ground soil, negatively affecting local ecosystems.
It is not really the printer itself that is the most dangerous item for landfills – it is actually the ink cartridges inside. When cartridges burst open, the harmful chemicals within can seep out. Because printer ink is a different beast, not all e-waste drop sites will accept cartridges. Check around locally to ensure your facility will take the ink – if not, there are still options. Again, many electronics retailers will accept ink cartridges – potentially offering a trade-in situation. Nonprofits dedicated to the safe processing of printer ink also exist, so make sure to do your homework.
With the rise of mp3 players, the old boom box stereos as we used to know have seemingly disappeared. If you have an older stereo at home that is not in use, there are plenty of ways to recycle it. Consider donating the stereo to a school or church, as they could most certainly use it. Many stereos can also be stripped for their internal parts (especially valuable copper wire), so you may be able to sell it for a small profit to a dealer. Craigslist has a free section where people give away all kinds of unwanted treasures – post your old-school stereo on there and it will be gone in a flash and into its new forever home. If not, you can also partner with a responsible recycler that can either refurbish it or make sure no part of your stereo ends up in a landfill.