Do Your Part
Electronics have become a major part of our lives. Americans use electronics in their daily lives for school, work and at home. The explosive growth in technology has increased the number of electronics devices available. Electronics like Smartphones and TVs become outdated very quickly meaning new devices are being bought by consumers to stay up-to-date.
This influx of devices brings up the problem of electronic waste management. Electronic recycling involves the disassembly of harmful and toxic electronic parts to recover valuable materials that are used to make new electronics. In simple terms, it involves turning the old into new.
Why Should We Recycle Electronics?
Solid Waste Management
According to an EPA (US Environmental Protection Agency) report, electronic waste represents only 2% of the solid waste stream. At the same time it accounts for 70% of the hazardous waste which is deposited in landfills. Recycling electronics helps contribute to the management of solid waste in states across the country.
The United States contributes to more electronic waste annually than any other country. Estimate figures place the weight of TVs, computers and general home appliances discarded by Americans at over 10 million tons each year. The rest of the world contributes to 20 to 40 million metric tons of e-waste every year.
Recycling aids in waste management in cities, thus making the environment cleaner.
Recovery of Precious Minerals and Metals
Recycling helps to recover valuable metals which are always in short supply. According to the EPA, by recycling one million cell phones we can recover more than 20,000 lbs of copper, 20 lbs of palladium, 550 lbs of silver, and 50 lbs of gold. Annually the total value of gold and silver lost from discarded electronics is approximately $60 million.
Even though e-waste does not make up a large proportion of total waste, it accounts for 40% of all heavy metals. Recycling e-waste helps to reduce the size of landfills and also reduces the number of toxic heavy metals like mercury and lead that make their way into the environment. Through recycling plants most of the toxic materials are properly disposed of.
How Can You Recycle Electronics
Many non-profit organizations and charities are willing to recycle electronics whether they are in good working condition or not. If you feel you no longer need a certain electronic device, simply donate it instead of letting it gather dust in your basement.
Here are some charities that accept used and unwanted electronics in the US: Free Geek, Hope Phones, The Wireless Foundation, Recycling for Charities, eBay Giving Works, Students Recycling Used Technology (StRUT), and Komputers 4 Kids among others.
Drop Them off at a Local Recycler
Local authorities and nonprofit organizations provide consumers with options for recycling their devices. Town and city councils in most states take a proactive approach to recycling by organizing collection events for unwanted electronics. Some of the nonprofit organizations include Call2Recycle and Sustainable Electronics International.
Return to the Manufacturer
Major manufacturers have programs that give consumers incentives to return their old products for recycling. In this way, manufacturers get access to raw materials to produce more electronics while getting the products off consumers hands. Some companies like Apple reward the customers for recycling with gift cards and trade-ins.
Other major manufacturers that accept devices for recycling include HP, DELL, Canon, Samsung, Sony, and LG.
Most PC and phone companies provide consumers with exchange programs. This involves manufacturers taking back their old products when consumers purchase a new one, usually at a rebate. They also offer free replacement services for old devices if you buy a new PC.
Hand Them to Retailers
Many states have begun to encourage retailers to offer consumers recycling opportunities. Many major retailers will accept electronic waste for recycling, regardless of whether you bought the device from the retailer or not. Major stores accepting drop-offs are Staples, Verizon, and Best Buy.
It is always prudent to confirm that stores will accept e-waste and what exactly types of products they will recycle.
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Recyclable Electronic Devices
Here is a list of common electronic devices you can recycle:
- Batteries (AAA, AA, C, D, button cell, 9 volt)
- Answering machines
- Audio cassette players
- Cameras (digital and analogue)
- CD players/recorders
- Cellular phones
- Closed circuit monitors
- Computer keyboards
- Computer CRT monitors
- Computer mouse devices
- Computer terminals
- Digital picture frames
- Disc drives
- DVD/Blu-ray players
- External & internal hard drives
- Fax machines
- Home theatre equipment
- Modems (wireless and wired)
- MP3/Digital audio players
- PDA (cell enabled)
- Portable audio/video players
- Projectors (video, audio, image)
- Stereo amplifiers
- Cordless telephones
- Tablet PCs
- Electric typewriters
- Video cameras/camcorders
Items that cannot be recycled include kitchen appliances, special medical equipment, printer cartridges, vacuum cleaners and video games.
How to Ensure You’re Making Sustainable, Green Choices When It Comes to Electronics
It makes sense to take a little extra effort to research companies and brands that aim for sustainable use of electronics. A good point to start is to cross check with the Electronics Green Fair Ranking. It rates brands on the parameters of sustainability, ecology, fair labor and climate change.
Check for eco labels like EnergyStar on all appliances to identify environmentally-friendly products. Consumers can check how much a certain electronic devices utilizes electricity. Smart features like standby-mode are a great thing to check for.
Consumers can pressure manufacturers to do more to curb the environmental impact of electronics.