Recycle your E-Waste

As we become greater consumers of electronics, we are left with a pressing issue of what to do with all our old or outdated TVs, laptops, cell phones, smartphones, or MP3 players.  Even worse, most communities have no other recourse than to throw out old electronics which means they either end up in landfills or shipped abroad to litter and pollute other countries.

Electronic waste or E-waste is the fastest growing part of the solid waste stream with only about 12 percent of the waste recycled nationwide.  Some of the materials in electronics pose a serious problem.  Lead, mercury, cadmium, and other hazardous materials are commonplace ingredients.  If not handled properly, these toxic substances can be released upon disposal and can be hazardous to both human health and the environment.  Not to mention metals and other components can be recovered from used electronics which protect our environment from unnecessary mining.

E-Waste that does not fill up our landfills is packed in trailers and shipped “out of sight, out of mind” to developing countries for alleged recycling as highlighted in a recent National Geographic article, and the compelling short video, “Dumping on the Poor“.  Many of the men, women, and children living in poverty are paid to disassemble these shipped electronics, exposing themselves to the hazardous materials.  To make matters worse, many of these materials end up in the water supply, poisoning the local drinking water.

How can I recycle my E-waste?
Without federal or state legislation, recycling options are few and far between.  Below are a few recycling options:

  • Drop off your e-waste at a local collection event or site.
  • Send your e-waste back to the manufacturer.
  • Bring in your e-waste to a local retailer.
  • Contact your legislator to support E-Waste recycling in Illinois.

You can go to the EPA to find out more e-waste recycling options in your state.  National recycling groups offer resources to help find local e-waste recycling as well including Basel Action Network, and National Recycling Coalition.  Most manufacturers of cell phones will take back old or used phones at retail stores, but it is best to contact your local store for details.  Other resources include Call to Recycle, EPA Plug-In Partners, and Earth911 which have extensive information on cell phone and other electronics recycling.

Most computer manufacturers offer take back programs either at retail stores or by mail.  Make sure to check the requirements – some exchanges are free while others have a nominal change.  Your best bet is to go to the manufacturer directly and find out.  Here are a few that offer these programs: Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Apple, Sony.

More and more larger retailers have trade in programs or accept some electronics including Circuit City, Best Buy, Staples, and Office Depot.