Avoid the health and environmental hazards caused by e-waste. Reduce new purchases, reuse, repair, and recycle unused electronic gadgets and equipment. E-waste does not need to be wasted.
The first line of defense in minimizing e-waste is to reduce purchases of new electronic devices and electrical equipment. Think twice before buying a new electronic gadget when an upgrade or new device becomes available. Not buying new stuff is good for the environment and your wallet.
Another way to reduce e-waste is to redeploy existing items to new owners. How many people have an old cell phone or laptop stashed as a backup that never gets used? Pre-owned electronic devices can be put to good use by other people.
- Regift to a friend or family member
- Donate to a school, community center, nonprofit, Salvation Army, Goodwill, or charitable organization
- Sell or giveaway using services like Gazelle or Freecycle
Keep in mind the person or organization you give, donate, or sell your used electronic devices to may or may not recycle them properly down the road.
When electronic devices and electrical equipment break down, they can often be repaired. People may choose to toss out the old unit and buy a new replacement because it seems cheaper and less hassle.
When one considers that retail prices do not include the cost of environmental damage and health issues caused by dumping e-waste in landfills or recycling it unsafely, a new item is not actually “cheaper”.
It may require a little extra effort to repair an item or have it repaired. There is a growing movement for do-it-yourself electronic gadget repair which is good for the environment, empowers people, and often saves money.
Recycle / E-Cycle
E-waste contains valuable materials as well as potentially toxic substances and can be safely recycled to recover metals and other materials for reuse and dispose of toxins appropriately.
Certified Electronic Recyclers
The intent of electronic recycling certification programs is to enable individuals and organizations to dispose of electronic equipment responsibly by identifying and working with recyclers who meet stringent standards for handling e-waste in an environmentally sound manner while ensuring worker safety. Currently, two electronic recycling certification standards exist:
Electronic Recycling Collection
According to the Consumer Electronics Association, there are over 8,000 locations for e-waste recycling drop off in the U.S. This includes retail stores that sell electronics, local municipality sites, charities, and processing centers.
Cities or organizations may offer periodic e-cycling events where people can drop off their used electronics. Sports teams promote electronic recycling by allowing fans to drop off their e-waste at the venue and then enjoy the game.
Some manufacturers and retailers offer drop-off or mail-in takeback programs.
Find Places to Recycle Unwanted Electronics
Below are a few of the many websites that help people find places to recycle their unwanted electronics. Look for electronic recyclers that are e-Stewards or R2 certified.
- Greener Gadgets
- eCycling Center
- E-cycling Central
- Electronic TakeBack Coalition
Important Note About Deleting Personal Information
Before donating, passing on, or recycling a cell phone, smartphone, tablet computer, desktop computer, laptop, data storage device, etc. make sure your personal information is removed. Mobile device procedures vary by manufacturer. Deleting files, reformatting, or restoring the operating system to factory settings is not sufficient for PCs and Macs. Use a disk-wiping program. Removing or drilling holes in the hard drive is effective but makes the device unusable.
- Basel Action Network – e-Stewards®
- Computerworld – How to clear your data off a device
- Consumer Electronics Association – Second Annual Report of the eCycling Leadership Initiative, April 2013 (link inactive as of July 2016)
- Electronics TakeBack Coalition
- Microsoft – How to more safely dispose of computers and other devices (link inactive as of July 2016)
- R2 Solutions – Responsible Recycling Practices (R2)
- U.S. EPA – Certified Electronics Recyclers