Currently, only around 12.5% of e-waste is recycled. Cell phones and other electronic items contain high amounts of precious metals like gold or silver. Americans dump phones containing over $60 million in gold/silver every year! For every one million cell phones that are recycled we can recover 35,274 lbs of copper, 772 lbs of silver, 75 lbs of gold and 33 lbs of palladium.
So what does this all mean?
We should probably do a little better job at recycling our electronics, which according to the EPA, is now the fastest growing municipal waste stream in America. Here are 5 commandments to start with on your journey to recycling more electronics:
1. Don’t Throw Electronics in the Trash!
While your first instinct might be to take your old TV or computer to the landfill, remember this – the toxins inside of these products are bad for the environment – the chemicals used to make up the internal components of electronics can seep into the soil and groundwater. The excess amount of lead in electronics alone can cause damage to your central and peripheral nervous systems, your kidneys, and your blood stream.
2. Old Doesn’t Mean Broken. Donate!
Many times the lifecycle of electronics outlives how long consumers own them; it’s hard to not resist the newest gadget that comes out. Your old electronic trash can be another’s treasure; there are organizations that will take old electronics for reuse in developing countries or for those who are at an economic disadvantage. These electronics get a new lease on life while improving the lives of others.
3. Find an Electronics Recycler in Your Province or State
If your electronics are too old or have met their maker, donating them isn’t and option, the next step is to recycle! There are recycling programs all over Canada and the United States that will take old electronics and recycle them properly. Many will even refurbish or reuse your old equipment. If you can’t find any electronics recycling programs near you, retailers like Best Buy and Staples will take back old electronics and recycling them responsibly.
4. No E-Waste Program near You? Try the Manufacturers’ Free Recycling Programs
Many computer and TV manufacturers have a take-back program –while this might not be the best option since not much is disclosed by these manufacturers about responsible recycling. Electronics companies usually take back their old products for free – some have even introduced money back programs based on the value of electronics you trade in.
You can find a list of electronics manufacturers and a summary of their take-back programs here.
5. Cell Phone and Other Wireless Electronics Recycling
Thanks to ever-evolving technology and consumer demand, cellphones and tablets probably have the shortest life-cycle of any electronic devices to date; thankfully there are many companies out there that will take back your old cell phones or wireless devices for free – many carriers in the US (AT&T, Sprint, Verizon ) and Canada offer some form of this trade in program. Take advantage of them by starting your own cell phone recycling program! Keep old cell phones or wireless devices out of the landfill.
Verizon’s trade-in goes beyond helping the environment by also contributes to the Hopeline program, a non-profit domestic violence advocacy and prevention group, with the funds generated from the recycled components of unwanted electronic devices.
And Don’t Forget To Erase Your Data!
Before recycling your old electronics (especially computers, cell phones, and tablets), erase all of your data – reverting your device back to the original factory settings does the trick. The last thing you want is to have sensitive information fall into the wrong hands!