Disposing of E-Waste
What is E-Waste?
E-waste is all electronic waste (examples: computers, TVs, cell phones, refrigerators, etc.). In 2013 the USA produced about 1.87 tons of e-waste.1 This type of waste cannot always just be thrown in the trash and you need to be aware of how to safely get dispose of your electronics, particularly computers, tablets, phones, and any other e-waste that can store your personal data. Using proper disposal techniques will ensure that your personal data (passwords, bank account details, personal photos, etc.). According to moneycrashers.com more than 100 million cell phone are thrown in the trash every year along with 20 million televisions. Only 13% of electronic waste is disposed of or recycle properly.2
- Check the condition of your electrical item. Does it still work? If so, think about donating your item. Schools, for instance, can often use refurbished computers. If you run an office and are upgrading, donation of your computers, printers, etc. can be especially helpful.
- If you don’t want to donate your e-waste item, think about selling it.
- If you don’t feel your item can be sold outright, you might be able to sell it to someone who can refurbish the item and then sell it on.
- Alternatively you can give your item away for free. You can advertise your item on various websites, like Craigslist, to find someone interested in your item.
- Not good enough to be donated/given away or sold? Then maybe recycling is the right route for you.
- If you are getting rid of an old phone, ensure that your first cancel any service plan and remove the sim card (the sim card should be shredded or cut in half).
- When possible, cell phones should be sent for refurbishment or recycling. “In 2009, approximately 38 percent of mobile devices collected for end-of-life management were reused or refurbished, and 62 percent were recycled for material recovery.”1
- For all laptops, desktops, netbooks, phones, tablets, etc. make sure that you remove all personal data. Start by backing up all of your data onto an external hard drive to ensure you don’t accidentally lose anything you will need later.
- Ensure that you clear your internet browsing history.
- Use a professional program to clear your device.
- Where possible, remove your hard drive to dispose of separately.
- If you still have them, use the restoration discs that came with your computer to use the factory reset option.
- Batteries are also e-waste. Some contain hazardous materials and need special disposal, such as car batteries. Many automotive stores wills safely dispose of them for you.
- Never group alkaline batteries (everyday batteries for things like flashlights and clocks) together for disposal. This is because live batteries could come into contact with one another and pose a safety risk.
- While removal companies may charge a fee to collect your large electronics, it is worth paying the fee because you can ensure the item is recycled properly by professionals and also guarantee that you are acting in accordance with any laws for safe disposal (e.g. ensuring lead and mercury are safely disposed of). Look for the E-stewards logo for any company you may choose. “In 2011, the U.S. electronics recycling industry processed 3 to 4 million tons of used and end-of-life electronics equipment. More than 70 percent of the collected gadgets can be recycled, recovering items such as plastic, steel, aluminum, copper, gold and silver to be used in new products.”3
- Check your local area’s laws for e-waste disposal rules as they may differ from another area’s laws.
- Use the internet. The internet is a wonderful tool to find information on a local, national, and global scale regarding e-waste.4 The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) website offers a lot of help with recycling and donation of e-waste: http://www2.epa.gov/recycle/electronics-donation-and-recycling
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