In the modern world that we live in today, we’re all highly dependent on our devices – our cell phones, computers, tablets, televisions, and so on. Considering the number of toxic substances and heavy metals (such as lead, cadmium, and mercury) found in the majority of our beloved gadgets, recycling electronics isn’t anywhere as easy, or as convenient, as it should be.
In fact, according to the United Nations, 53.6 million tons of e-waste were discarded in 2019, and only 17.4 percent of it was disposed of properly. Additionally, between 2014 and 2019, global e-waste volumes increased by 21 percent, a pace that, if continued, will lead to a doubling of electronic waste worldwide in only 16 years. In 2019, the United States alone generated 6.92 million tons of e-waste, which is about 46 pounds per person. Americans only recycled 15% of the material.
While electronics do contain toxic properties, they’re also made of valuable substances that can be recovered and reused such as plastic, steel, aluminum, copper, gold, and silver. More than 70 percent of a gadget can be recycled (according to Earth 911). Cell phones, computer monitors, computers, ink cartridges, tablets, printers – these are all recyclable.
Thanks to growing technology, new devices are being introduced into our lives at a rapid pace, so it is more important than ever that we are all taking the proper steps to properly rid ourselves of outdated devices. So, what exactly should you do with an electronic, such as a computer or cell phone (or even a used ink cartridge), that has reached the end of its life cycle?
Simply discarding electronics in the curbside bin is illegal in most states. Over 25 states in the U.S. have mandated electronic recycling. Laws regarding the disposal of e-waste vary from state to state, but in general, there are several things you can do with unwanted electronic waste, which we will discuss in this post.
What is E-Waste
Before we dive into how to properly recycle electronics, let’s talk about e-waste itself.
According to CalRecycle, “the term ‘e-waste’ is loosely applied to consumer and business electronic equipment that is near or at the end of its useful life. There is no clear definition for e-waste; for instance whether or not items like microwave ovens and other similar ‘appliances’ should be grouped into the category has not been established.”
E-waste is any electronic equipment that’s been discarded, including both working and broken items that are thrown in the garbage. This type of waste is particularly dangerous due to toxic chemicals that naturally leach from the metals inside when buried.
Some common examples of our favorite (outdated or broken) electronics that can be categorized as electronic waste include:
- Cell phones
- Computers, laptops, and pretty much any peripheral that can be connected to either one of these devices (i.e. a hard drive, mouse, keyboard, printer, scanner, speaker, or computer monitor)
- Video game systems
- DVD players
- Smart watches
- Power strips
How to Recycle E-Waste
- Donate it to a local charity or non-profit (a benefit of doing this is that it is tax-deductible, just remember to get a receipt!), such as a senior’s organization or recreation center, or you can seek after programs to help get your old devices to people who may need them such as:
◦Dell Reconnect – In its partnership with Goodwill, Dell Reconnect accepts not just Dell products, but all computer brands’ products (including just about anything that can be connected to a computer, like a keyboard or a mouse, printer, scanner, software, speakers, etc). Just ensure you clear off any private information from your computer prior to taking it to one of the participating Goodwill locations.
◦AmericanCellPhoneDrive.Org – This non-profit accepts all cell phone brands and will either refurbish and resell your old device or recycle them.
◦The World Computer Exchange – If your computer is still working, you can find a chapter near you that you can contact in order to donate your old computer and devices. Your donation will go to nonprofits and communities around the world.
◦National Cristina Foundation – The Foundation’s online non-profit locator enables you to select a local charity or school in your area to receive a donation of your old equipment
- Take it to a designated recycler near you – Many nonprofit organizations and local communities offer options to help you recycle old electronics. Call2Recycle, offers drop-off locations for rechargeable batteries and cell phones all over the country – just enter your zip code to find a location.
- Bring it or mail it to a tech manufacturer or retailer – In many states, including New York, manufacturers of computers, televisions, etc. are actually required by law to accept their products for recycling. Many of them even have great recycling programs or take-back options, for example:
◦Apple’s GiveBack Program allows you to trade in your device for an Apple Store Gift card, AND, if it’s not eligible for a credit, they’ll recycle it for you
◦Amazon’s Trade-In Program operates in a similar fashion and permits you to receive an Amazon gift card in exchange for eligible items
◦Office Depot and Staples both offer members of their affinity programs $2 in rewards for your recycled ink cartridge. Most printer manufacturers also have their own recycling programs so you can look into that option as well simply by visiting their site
- Sell it – Just like the old saying goes, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure”. There is a robust market for “outdated” electronics (not just for gadgets like Apple but some people will pay a premium for vintage Nintendo or PlayStation video games). Between Craigslist, eBay, and Facebook Marketplace, you’ll easily find someone interested in purchasing your old phone, laptop, printer, TV, video game console, and so on.
As you’ve hopefully learned, it’s important to properly dispose of your electronics when they are no longer usable. If you have any e-waste (or anything else for that matter) that you’re unsure how to dispose of, you can visit https://earth911.com/recycling-center-search-guides/.
Properly recycling, of not only electronics but of all materials, is imperative for protecting the environment and helping create a brighter future for our planet. This is one of our primary goals at Kiwi Energy and we pride ourselves in providing innovative energy and natural gas solutions that keep our planet top of mind. If you haven’t made the switch to Kiwi Energy yet, be sure to contact us today.