Recycle That Gadget Responsibly
There are already more electronic devices than people in the world. It is not too late to develop a program that is good for the environment and your budget.
With the rapid turnover and obsolescence of electronic devices, tablets, computers, and smartphones, what do you do with the old ones? Rarely does anyone keep the old technology as a backup, especially mobile/portable devices. You may not know it, but that electronic device contains rare earth and toxic materials that should not go into a landfill or be dumped in the ocean. They can cause illnesses and contaminate the water systems.
Half the states in the U.S. have laws on the books dealing with the correct and legal ways to dispose of electronic waste. If you want to learn about your state, go to the National Center for Electronics Recycling. This site provides detailed information by state and the rules, regulations and fees associated with recycling electronics. Besides the state regulations, you may find your community has a regularly scheduled recycling program. I live in Arlington, VA and the county has both a Saturday recycling site for disposing of electronics, and also an annual recycling weekend event.
If you want to learn more about the hazards of electronic waste, you should read the information at the Electronics TakeBack Coalition. This site has links to other sites for multiple methods of dealing with electronic waste.
One situation that I did not know about is the existence of fake recyclers. These fakes are commonly exporters, not recyclers; they can earn more money through exportation than actually recycling the devices. They collect the electronic devices and ship them to another country, where the devices may be refurbished or more likely disassembled for their expensive materials. In some cases the components are cleaned and relabeled and sold as new. This occurs quite commonly in component counterfeiting. Those disassembling the devices are exposed to toxic materials which cause health hazards. You may be able to spot these fake recyclers based on no-cost or low-cost fees they charge.
They may make also make statements like, "We are EPA certified"--a status which does not exist. And even if they claim, "We do not export any electronic devices," they could be telling the literal truth--some sell to brokers who then export the devices.
It may not be apparent what to ask when recycling. The Telecommunications Industry Association has prepared a list of "Questions to Ask Potential Recyclers".
So what can you do responsibly when recycling electronic devices?
1. Check your state and local rules and regulations. Look for existing government-sponsored recycling programs. Some fees may apply such as for old CRT televisions. However, many devices can be dropped off at no cost at specially designated sites on a scheduled basis.
2. Your local electronic retailer may have a recycling program. Contact companies such as Staples, Office Depot, Best Buy, and Radio Shack. You may even receive a gift card for the bringing in the recyclable devices.
3. Since many of the devices are from large manufacturers, check with their websites for recycling programs they may offer. Some will provide free shipping labels. Others may offer gift cards. They may even recycle other manufacturers' products. HP, Apple, Sony Toshiba, Samsung and many others have such programs. If you are recycling mobile phones, there are local programs at banks and libraries where you can drop them off. If this is not available, then contact the mobile manufacturer or the carrier that provided the mobile service.
4. Consider donating the devices to a local not-for-profit organization. You can find your local organization by going to the not-for-profit locator at the National Cristina Foundation, and enter your ZIP code. Besides providing the locations, the site also describes what each not-for-profit will accept.
5. If your devices are not too old, then you may be able to sell them on sites such as eBay and Craigslist. There are many sites devoted to purchasing electronic devices that will pay for the device and offer free shipping.
6. If all else fails, you could just give it away.
There are already more electronic devices than people in the world. Some analysts predict that the average person will eventually own 2.5 devices simultaneously. It is not too late to develop a recycling program that is good for the environment and may be good for your budget.