Once your computer or cell phone exhausts its useful life, it is considered electronic waste or e-waste. E-waste can range from a host of household electronics including TV sets, computers and computer accessories, stereo equipment, digital cameras, microwave ovens, and smoke detectors, just to name a few.
When such gadgets are no longer valuable to you, you should start thinking of your next steps carefully to avoid breaking the law or harming the environment. Read on to find out how you can safely discard your e-waste through proper recycling.
What are the potential dangers of improper e-waste disposal?
Electronic waste can quickly become a stubborn environmental hazard if not properly disposed of. Moreover, the extent of such uninformed disposal is alarming. A recent UN study revealed that the total global e-waste generation in 2019 alone amounted to more than 50 million tons. Of this, only slightly above 17% was discarded properly. If that figure remains that low in the future, then our immediate environment could be staring at an even greater threat of pollution.
When e-waste is dumped in landfills or incinerated, it may pose certain health risks because of the hazardous material contained in electronic products, such as lead, mercury, and cadmium. Such materials are not only toxic but also non-biodegradable.
As this waste accumulates in landfills, exposure to environmental toxins may increase. This further accelerates the risk of cancer as well as developmental and neurological disorders. The toxic chemicals leaking from the landfill may also contaminate the soil and groundwater.
So, how do you safely dispose of and recycle e-waste?
Many states have taken steps to reduce e-waste footprint alongside minimizing carbon emissions by mandating people to recycle old electronics.That said, properly disposing of your e-waste largely remains a personal responsibility. Remember, the health and environmental risks for improper disposal could get to you or your loved ones.
The major driver of the ever-increasing e-waste menace is the short lifespan of most electronic devices. Generally, most computers and cell phones remain actively useful for less than two years after which they are discarded.
As such, understanding how to deal with this kind of waste is important in sustaining a healthy, safe, and comfortable living and work environment. Start by practicing these simple routines. But before you do, make sure you completely delete all your personal information from your computer or cell phone due for disposal as an extra precaution.
1. Donate or sell your outdated electronic
This is by far the simplest action to take. Whether your electronic product is still functional or not, there are plenty of charity or nonprofit entities that would gladly take it off your hands. It is up to you to do your fact check and due diligence and discover some of these entities. Most of them are local institutions serving as recreation centers, education centers, or providing critical services to the elderly. As you donate your e-waste, you can get a receipt and end up with an extra deductible on your tax returns.
A perfect example of an entity that can help you get your old devices to people who really need them is eBay for Charity. When you sell your used gadgets here, you can donate all or a portion of your proceeds to a charitable cause of your choice.
2. Drop it off at your local e-waste recycler
There are plenty of local household hazardous waste drop-off facilities or participating stores that do e-waste recycling free of charge. An example of such an institution is the Call2Recycle that specializes in recycling batteries and cellphones. The company has multiple drop-off points across the US for collecting their specific e-waste. By entering your zip code on their site, you can easily locate your nearest drop-off location. They either refurbish cellphones and their batteries for resale or recycle them and use the materials for other products.
3. Take advantage of your manufacturer's recycling programs
Before recklessly discarding your outdated electronics, check if you can access the particular electronics' manufacturer or retailer. Most such entities provide active recycling programs. You can search these programs online either by company name or product type. From here, check the retailer's or brand's official website for details on the recycling process.
4. Consult a reliable technology company
Some of the tech firms that can help you safely recycle your old electronics are:
- Best Buy with a wide array of recycling options for different electronics
- Amazon that offers gift cards for all kinds of electronic devices
- Apple through its GiveBack program that lets you trade in your old device with another one through gift cards
- Sprint through a buyback program that provides account credits for all kinds of old mobile phones
Why is e-waste recycling important?
According to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), recycling electronics helps conserve resources and natural materials. Manufacturing electronic products takes up much of these valuable resources and materials that all need a significant amount of energy to extract.
Extraction through mining in turn results in extensive air pollution, water pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions. To escape this vicious cycle, EPA recommends donating or recycling electronic waste. The responsibility to care for our environment is a collective responsibility.
If you do your part well, you will trigger a chain reaction of proper e-waste disposal and the overall positive impact will be felt throughout your community. Whatever you do, never throw your e-waste in your trash!