April 23rd, 2010

Recycling Electronic Waste

Personal electronics, such as computers and cell phones, make our lives easier. They allow us to be in touch wherever we are and access information we wouldn’t have been able to even twenty years ago. As these tools are replaced and discarded, they can cause major problems. Most electronic devices contain toxic chemicals, like lead, that can leach into groundwater when they end up in landfills. Sadly, that’s exactly where a large majority of electronic items end up. The Environmental Protection Agency reported in 2007 that more than 80% of end-of-life electronics ended up in landfills.[1]

The good news is that you have several options when the time comes to get rid your mobile phone or laptop. If they are still functional, you can donate them to non-profit agencies or local shelters. Be sure the items still work, though. Many of these organizations don’t have the money or expertise to repair the items and then have to figure out how to dispose of them. This puts an additional strain on already tight resources.

If nonfunctional, you can take your devices to eCyclers, like Total Reclaim or Goodwill in Seattle. These organizations will refurbish the item and resell it, so someone else can use it. If they can’t be fixed, the eCyclers will break the devices down into their component materials. The reclaimed materials, like glass, copper and plastic, will then be shipped to manufacturers who will use them to create new products.

In some cases, there is a small fee to recycle electronic devices. However, the cost is minimal compared to the costs associated with cleaning up contaminated landfills and dealing with the damage they cause.

For more information on eCycling, visit these sites.

US EPA: eCycling — Common Wastes & Materials

Total Reclaim: Computer & Electronics Recycling

Seattle Goodwill: E-Cycle at Goodwill

[1]http://www.epa.gov/wastes/conserve/materials/ecycling/manage.htm

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