by Rob Pirozzi
Modern life is full of electronic gadgets. Cell phones, digital cameras, camcorders, MP3 players, computers, laptops, monitors and more are common in all modern households. These modern electronic devices provide entertainment and help us in many ways. The problem with them is that they wear out or become obsolete, and then we are faced with the challenge of how to dispose of them.
Simply throwing electronic devices in the trash may be 1 option, but it is an option with a significant environmental impact. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), over 200 million tons of electronic waste (e-waste) ends up in landfills every year. The problem with this is that many consumer electronic items contain harmful materials such as lead, mercury, arsenic, cadmium and more. These materials can pollute the land, water, and air. In fact, according to Earth 911, over 70% of toxic waste found in landfills comes from e-waste.
Some items, such as computers and computer monitors, are banned from landfills and curbside trash pickup. In some states and municipalities, it is illegal to simply throw away such items. So the challenge is twofold, how to dispose of properly to comply with applicable laws, or how to dispose of properly because it is the environmentally responsible thing to do.
Most people are familiar with the recycling of cans, glass, paper, and plastic. They either take it to designated recycling centers at their landfill, or transfer station, or they are picked up through curbside recycling efforts. When it comes to recycling our electronic gadgets, the task becomes significantly more difficult. Unlike cans, paper, plastic, and glass, there is typically not curbside recycling for electronic devices. You also typically cannot simply take such items and leave them at the landfill or transfer station. Thus, recycling our gadgets requires some thought and effort. It is important to know your recycling options for common electronic items.
Reuse Electronic Devices through Donation
An excellent option for electronic gadgets that are still in working order is to donate them to someone who can make use of them. Many schools and community groups are happy to receive working electronic items. Schools, for example, often are very appreciative to receive donated computers, peripherals, and monitors. There are even tax incentives built into the Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997 for companies to donate such items to schools. Cell phones are another item that many community organizations love to receive in donation. In addition, there are national organizations that will accept donations of electronic items. Some organizations that accept donations include:
· Electronics Industry Alliance (EIA)
· Computers For Schools
· Another Byte, Inc.
· National Cristina Foundation (NCF)
· Share the Technology
· Educational Assistance Ltd. (EAL)
· The Wireless Foundation
· The 911 Cell Phone Bank
Recycling Unwanted Electronic Gadgets
If reuse through donation is not an option there are numerous programs for recycling unwanted electronic items. Many municipalities will have special days at their landfill or transfer station where these items will be accepted for recycling. There may be a fee associated with these programs.
In addition, many major manufacturers of common electronic items will accept them for recycling, including Acer, Apple, Dell, Epson, Gateway, Hewlett-Packard, Lenovo/IBM, Panasonic, Sony, and Toshiba. Many major retailers also have recycling programs, including Best Buy, Circuit City, Office Depot, and Staples.
For cellular phones, many cell phone manufacturers, and all of the major wireless companies provide recycling programs for cell phones. Most of the programs will accept anyone’s cell phones for recycling.
A Word About Recycling Batteries
General purpose and alkaline batteries are not considered to be hazardous waste by the US Government. These items may be disposed of with normal household waste except in California where non-households must dispose of them in accordance with the California Universal Waste Rules. Recycling programs for general purpose and alkaline batteries are rare.
Rechargeable batteries may be recycled for free. You may find a list of organizations that accept rechargeable batteries at the Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corporation.