Our ever-growing reliance on electronics has led to an unintended consequence: the rise of e-waste. In addition to being the largest growing waste stream worldwide, e-waste contains some of the most harmful toxins to humans. And to make matters worse, no federal regulations are currently in place to combat this problem. Luckily, there are five easy strategies that you can follow on your own.
1. Stem the Spread
Before buying a brand new PC or other device, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) suggests you first consider upgrading the hardware or software. Many computers can have memory and performance enhancing features added to them. Deleting or zipping information can free up hard drive space. Also, uploading files to an online service, flash drive, or external storage can also boost performance. In addition, IFixIt.com offers many easy-to-follow videos to help troubleshoot problems with your electronic devices, preventing you from having to throw them away.
If this is not possible, however, make sure you delete all personal information from your electronic device before donating or recycling it. Remember scanners and copiers may have hard drives that record your information, so these also will need to be deleted. Finally, remove any batteries from your electronics; they may need to be recycled separately.
2. Sell or Donate
There are many resources online for selling electronics that still work: craigslist, eBay, Usell, Gazelle, ecoatm, iReTron, and Glyde, to name but a few. Calling your local Goodwill or secondhand shop is another alternative; you may be surprised what they accept. Do you have an old cell phone to donate? Give cellphonesforsoldiers.com a look or sellmycellphones.com. Search your area for a local schools, charities, or organizations that may want your old electronics. A good way to do this is with www.cristina.org. This website provides a list of local organizations in need of specific electronics via a zip code search. And remember: Don’t forget to document your transaction. There are tax benefits to donating your old electronic items to charities.
3. Go Local
Know where your local electronics collection centers are. Apple will take back their products, Staples accepts electronics items, and Best Buy will take almost any E-waste. You can also look for a local E-Steward-certified recycler in your area. This can be done by going onto e-stewards.org and selecting the “Find a recycler” tab. The EPA also offers a search feature to locate your electronic item, as well as to determine whether the manufacturer will take it back or offers mail-in options. Finally, Earth911.com has a quick search for almost any type of material you might have around your home or garage.
4. Educate and Organize
Now that you are a residential expert on E-waste, educate your neighbors and local businesses about pro recycling. By getting these electronics back into the recycling stream you can reduce the load on the mining, processing, manufacturing, and transport industries–in turn, reducing pollution. Not to mention, organizing a local drive to clean out old electronics can make a trip to the local recycling center much more economical. For those in the San Francisco Bay area, Green Citizen.com organizes pickups; the company also offers mail-in programs for those who don’t.
5. Talk to Government Officials
As noted above, there currently is no mandatory federal recycling legislation. Contact your Congressional representatives and let them know your stand on E-waste. Go to http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/ and type in your zip code to find your specific representative (s).