What Is E-Cycling?
Most of us couldn’t imagine living without our computers, iPods, cell phones and other electronic gadgets. These electronics are updated almost constantly and keeping up with the latest technology is fun. But what happens to all the old electronics we no longer want?
According to the EPA, in 2009 Americans generated about 2.37 million tons of electronic waste, or e-waste. Sadly only a small percentage this e-waste was recycled: about 25 percent of televisions, computers/peripherals, scanners and fax machines and about eight percent of cell phones.
The growing mound of garbage in landfills would be bad enough, but that’s not the end of the problem with e-waste. Some of the materials contained in old electronics are dangerous. For example, the average CRT tube from a television or computer monitor contains between six to eight pounds of lead, which is released into the environment when the surrounding glass is smashed. Additionally, used electronics contain many useful recyclable materials such as:
- Precious metals and copper.
Reputable e-cycling facilities insure that dangerous materials are safely processed and renewable materials are recycled. By preserving and reusing recyclable materials we can reduce:
- Energy consumption
- Greenhouse gas emissions
- Exhaustion of limited resources.
E-cycling doesn’t have to be complicated or difficult, and you’ve got all kinds of valid options. One of these might be right for you:
Retailers That E-Cycle
Most major retailers have e-cycling programs. Here are just a few:
- Costco and Staples: These retailers offer discounts for trade-ins on mp3 players, game consoles, computers and other electronics.
- Best Buy: Stores recycle rechargeable batteries, ink-jet cartridges and cell phones free of charge. You can also recycle large appliances such as washing machines, dryers, refrigerators and televisions at no charge as long as you’re buying a replacement item at Best Buy.
- Office Depot: These stores sell recycling boxes: $5 for small, $10 for medium and $15 for large. If you buy a box and fill it with your unwanted electronics, they’ll take it off your hands and recycle the contents.
Many manufacturers have stepped up and taken responsibility for their products even after they’re useful lives are over. Some companies that offer recycling options for their products include:
Trade and Donations
Just because you don’t want your old electronics doesn’t mean someone else wouldn’t be thrilled to have these things. Try some of these easy options for e-cycling to a second user:
- Freecycle.org: Members can give or receive all kinds of used items in their community at no cost. Everything is donated with no strings attached so trading isn’t allowed.
- Craigslist: Create a free post on this site listing items you want to give away or trade. To protect yourself, use caution when meeting with strangers. You may want to meet at a public location to exchange items rather than at your home, or just mail items instead.
- Charitable organizations: Churches, synagogues and other charitable organizations often have programs to place used electronics with schools or people in need. Some charitable organizations also sell used electronics to raise money for worthy causes. Your donations may be tax deductible.
Options that Pay
Why not get paid to do the right thing? With these e-cycling options, you can!
- Gazelle and TechForward: These organizations offer buy-back programs to recycle your old GPS devices, cell phones, mp3 players, cameras and more.
- BuyMyBrokeniPod.com: Pays for unwanted old iPods, even if they’re not functioning at all.
Finding a Place You Can Trust
Unfortunately, not all e-cycling organizations are reputable. Some even ship materials overseas where toxic waste is introduced into the environments of developing countries. If you’re unsure about where to e-cycle in your area, here are some resources that can help:
- My Green Electronics: www.MyGreenElectronics.com
- Earth911: http://earth911.com/
- E-Cycling Central: http://www.ecyclingcentral.com/
- The United States Environmental Protection Agency: http://www.epa.gov/osw/conserve/materials/ecycling/donate.htm
- The Basel Action Network E-Stewards Initiative: http://e-stewards.org/
Protect Yourself When You E-Cycle
In a perfect world you could safely recycle electronics without taking any precautions. Unfortunately, because many of these devices store valuable personal information, you’re risking identity theft if you don’t protect yourself. Take these steps so you’re not left feeling like “no good deed goes unpunished”:
- Thoroughly “clean” or “wipe” the memory of all items you plan to recycle. Plenty of programs including WipeDrive or DataEraser will take care of this for you on your computer. Other devices such as cell phones should have a “wipe handheld or “reset” option in the security settings.
- If you’re not confident that you’ve been able to erase personal information, you always have the option to remove and destroy the hard drive or memory card in your device before recycling. Smashing a hard drive with a hammer insures that no information can be retrieved.
Taking the time to e-cycle with a reputable organization will protect our planet, help people in need and possibly even bring you a little extra cash. You’ll be glad you made a sustainable choice and can enjoy your new, state-of-the-art electronics guilt-free.