E-Waste (short for electronics waste – everything from cell phones, to tablets, to laptop computers to desk-top computers, to TVs and DVD players, to some appliances) is a growing problem in the USA. According to the EPA, even in 2012, we generated 3.412 million tons of e-waste in the U.S. Of this amount, only 1 million tons, or 29.2%, was recycled. That was up from 25% in 2011, but the rest (almost 70%) was trashed in landfills or incinerators. In the four years since that report our use of techno-gadgets has increased, and so has our e-waste problem.
When disposed of in a land fill, tech gadgets give off toxins that pollute the air and soil. Also, many of these items contain precious metals like gold and platinum that can and should be recovered. When a gadget ceases to function overall, there are functioning component parts than can and should be harvested and put back to use.
Disposing of Used but Working E-Tech
With manufacturers cranking out new models every year (or few months!) people often buy a replacement gadget long before they’ve worn out the old one. Don’t throw these away! Delete any personal data it contains and find it a new home. You can sell your old one on Amazon or e-Bay to offset some of the cost of upgrading or use the Amazon Trade-in Program to earn a gift card you can use on a future purchase. Gazelle offers cash for used smart phones and other devices.
Or donate your working older tech to a local school, Goodwill, or other local charity. Some schools or charities will put your unwanted item to work themselves, others (like Goodwill) will sell it to someone who can’t afford a new one, so you help the buyer and the charity that sells it. You can often take a charitable donation tax deduction. Ask your tax professional how to document and value your donations.
Disposing of Dead E-Waste
Even non-functioning electronics hold a gold-mine (sometimes literally) of recoverable materials. Everything from the plastic cases to gold plated contacts can yield recyclable materials and keep those materials out of the landfill.
To find e-waste collection sites or events, look for your local Keep America Beautiful member web site, or check your city web site, or contact your waste management company.
There are also companies set up to recover such materials that will accept your old products. Sometimes they pay you a small fee for them. Check out Greener Gadgets.org to see if any are in your area.
Many computer manufacturers have a take-back program and will accept your old model when you buy a new one. Check out the Electronics Takeback Coalition web site for details. They also have a Facebook page.
Some national chain retailers, Best Buy and Staples to name two, accept e-waste drop-offs at their stores. Some will pick it up from you for a small fee. Most will pick it up for free when you have a new one delivered.
No Reason to Trash E-waste
With all these programs and such convenience there is no reason to send your old phone, tablet, computer, stereo, or appliance to the landfill. Recycle it or re-purpose it. You will be conserving resources, preventing pollution in the landfill, and maybe helping another human being enjoy the benefits of modern technology. How can you lose with that?