With today’s rapidly changing technology, we all have an old, unused computer or cell phone from 2003 sitting around the house. I know I do. I’ve wanted to get rid of them for a while, but you really shouldn’t just throw them in the trash, should you? As a result, they’ve just piled up in the guest room of our house.
An article from Yahoo News notes, “We produce 20 – 50 metric tons of e-waste every year, but only 15% of it gets recycled!” Yahoo adds that nearly three-quarters of heavy metal waste disposed in landfills comes from e-waste. As these unwanted electronics rot away, chemicals like arsenic, mercury and lead from the electronics seep into the Earth polluting the immediate area. Moreover, water runoff can carry the chemicals much further.
Luckily, the US Environmental Protection Agency’s website can help point us in the right direction as to where to dispose our unwanted or outdated electronic devices! With links to several websites and tips on what and where to recycle, or e-cycle, you’re probably going to find a place near you.
Of all the sites listed on the EPA’s e-cycling page, I found Earth 911 the easiest to use. In the search field, I typed in what I wanted to recycle along with my zip code. Then it shows me all of the places close to my house that accept e-waste, what types of e-waste they will take (some places only accept certain items), what their hours of operation are, and all of their contact information in case I wanted to ask more questions.
Big name electronic stores also partake in e-cycling. I returned an old computer at Best Buy last summer and they gave me a $17 gift card as part of their computer refurbishing program. Granted, $17 isn’t a lot of money to spend at Best Buy, but still I knew that the computer wasn’t ending up in a landfill at least.
Some places like Staples and Office Max charge $10 per item you want to recycle. You might tell yourself, “Why should I pay a fee?” This fee often ensures that the electronic are indeed properly disposed of instead of just thrown in a landfill or sent for disposal overseas.
One thing I didn’t know is that a lot of electronics companies now offer some kind of e-cycle program. Samsung and LG Electronics, for example, offer prepaid mailing labels on their website so you can box up your old smart phone for free. Most Verizon stores have donation boxes for old phones and donate them to HopeLine, which fixes up the phones and gives them to domestic abuse victims and survivors. Dell takes old computers and refurbishes those items so non-profit organizations like Goodwill can distribute them around the community.
As I also mentioned before, many communities offer a free e-cycling day. Where I live, they usually have a day in the spring and fall. You can contact your local city office to find out if your community has an e-cycle day. If not, maybe you can also encourage them to start one with all your newfound e-cycling knowledge.
There are plenty of places you can take your old computers, cellphones, televisions and other electronic devices rather than putting them in your trash can. Be smart about disposing of your electronics. Even though it might cost you a small fee, feel good in knowing that you’re doing your part to minimize pollutants going into the Earth or that they’re being refurbished to help someone in need.