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The world today is buzzing and beeping with countless electronics and gadgets: smartphones, tablets, laptops, video game consoles, smartwatches, fitness trackers, GPS devices – the list is virtually endless. Unfortunately for us, the rise of more accessible electronic devices has come with a serious side effect: e-waste.

E-waste is exactly what you think it is: any old, discarded, sometimes broken or otherwise unwanted electronic devices you want to throw away. It might be an old smartphone in the junk drawer discarded after the new upgrade was released, or a 90s-era computer monitor that’s been sitting in the garage for decades. Whatever it is, it’s waste, and it’s one of the largest, most dangerous waste streams on the planet. Some research suggests we may be generating upwards of 93 million tons of electronic waste every single year.

E-waste can contain a wide variety of dangerous chemicals and metals, such as lead, various flame retardants, mercury and more. If improperly discarded in something like a landfill, the chemicals and the other dangerous materials found in circuit boards, microchips and wiring components can be toxic to nearby people and ecosystems, and can seep into the soil and groundwater when it rains. And because electronics often contains hundreds, if not thousands of tiny microcomponents, they are nearly impossible to efficiently recycle on a large scale. For these reasons, responsibly getting rid of your own e-waste is critically important.

Here are a few ways you can prevent your unwanted electronics from being sent to the landfill.



1. Donate

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Flickr, Steve Snodgrass, CC BY 2.0

First and foremost, it is important to reuse and donate any electronics you might not want, but someone else could use. Used cell phones, for example, can be donated for free to the popular nonprofit Cell Phones for Soldiers (www.cellphonesforsoldiers.com), which refurbishes and sends donated phones to touring soldiers overseas. For old-yet-functional electronics like TV sets and stereo systems, donating to a local thrift shop is a great choice. Options like these give second life to electronic devices that would otherwise be thrown away and sent to a landfill.


2. Recycling With Electronics Retailers

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Flickr, U.S. Army Environmental Command, CC BY 2.0

Many electronics retailers have free programs that will recycle your unwanted electronic devices. One of the most popular is Best Buy’s in-store recycling program. The company claims they collect more than 400 pounds of electronic waste per minute they are open, and they accept all kinds of electronics. Staples will also take any electronics for recycling at no cost. Many other electronics retailers in your area will also likely recycle your unwanted e-waste, sometimes even accessory items like empty ink and toner cartridges that you may redeem for store credit.


3.Community Recycling Options

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Flickr, Charley Lhasa, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Some communities offer curbside collection days for old TVs and other electronics, so be sure to research if your own town or city offers similar options. Contacting your town or city’s recycling provider may also help you determine if your municipality has e-waste recycling options available. There are also several nonprofit organizations that offer community drop-off options for e-waste. Call2Recycle (www.call2recycle.org), for example, has over 20,000 drop-off locations listed on their website for items like rechargeable batteries and cell phones.

Call2Recycle (www.call2recycle.org), for example, has over 20,000 drop-off locations listed on their website for items like rechargeable batteries and cell phones.


4. Manufacturer Takeback Programs

Flickr, JeepersMedia, CC BY 2.0

Today, many electronics manufacturers will take back old, unwanted devices of theirs for free. Companies like Samsung, Panasonic, Apple, and Lexmark provide free mail-in or in-store redemption programs, and will recycle, refurbish or donate any e-waste you send. It’s important to do some research before doing this to ensure the manufacturer actually recycles or donates the waste in a responsible way. Dell, in partnership with Microsoft, runs an exemplary donation program in collaboration with Goodwill, allowing you to take old computer equipment to any Goodwill location for recycling or donation.


5.Recycle With TerraCycle

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When you’ve run out of other options, TerraCycle has several e-waste recycling programs available to any individual, family, school or community seeking socially and environmentally responsible disposal options. The E-Waste Brigade is a free recycling program anyone can join, and it accepts a variety of waste such as ink and toner cartridges, smartphones, laptops and tablets. We also have an E-Waste Zero Waste Box, which accepts any form of electronic waste: old printers and fax machines, computer monitors, scanners, stereos, DVD players, radios, cameras, keyboards and much more.

For more information about TerraCycle’s Zero Waste Boxes, visit zerowasteboxes.terracycle.com. For information about our free recycling programs, check out TerraCycle’s website at www.terracycle.com.

The growth of this ubiquitous and dangerous waste stream is quickly getting out of hand. The power is in our hands as consumers, so be sure to look for more responsible disposal options for that old inkjet printer from 1998 before throwing it in the garbage.



www.Dishmag.com / Issue 173 - September 5491
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