One of the most common things that consumers can do is replace their old, outdated electronics. The question then becomes, where do all of these obsolete cell phones, computers and tablets finally end up? In light of the fact that about two-thirds of people in the U.S. have smartphones, and that they “upgrade” their smartphones with newer models about every 18 months, there’s a big push right now for safe e-waste disposal.
E-waste Disposal Tips Everyone Can Use
Up to this point the emphasis has mainly been on personal consumer electronics. Obviously, though, businesses across the country are a huge contributor of electronic waste. What’s shocking is that so few recycle these products as they should.
- Really Understand the Problem
The Environmental Protection Agency ran a study in 2009 that showed only a minority of businesses in the U.S. recycled their computers, printers and televisions once those products had reached the end-of-life management phase.
The reason that’s shocking is that e-waste itself constitutes a slim 2 percent of all waste at landfills, yet e-waste scores big when it comes to overall toxic waste at landfills.
By some estimates e-waste is responsible for almost three-fourths (70%) of electronic waste that now clogs up landfills. Up to 50 metric tons of potentially toxic e-waste is recycled or eliminated globally every single year. The arresting thing: Not all e-waste is actually waste…or should be wasted.
(Just over 10 percent (12.5%) of total e-waste is currently recycled responsibly.)
- Recycle Your Old Electronics
It used to be that pioneers would refer to oil shooting up from the ground as “black gold.” As it turns out, that’s perhaps what your Blackberry might also be called since American smartphones that are unceremoniously retired every year contain, collectively, over $50 million in gold and silver.
Aside from the toxicity issues mentioned above, used electronics are typically better off recycled since the parts are valuable in themselves, sometimes both valuable and finite (e.g., gold and silver), and can be used in the service of creating tomorrow’s smartphones.
Major electronics manufacturers like Apple have recycling programs that allow you to print a prepaid mailing label online, mail in your old phone, and do the responsible thing. Two EPA-backed e-waste disposal and recycling resources to check out would also be e-Stewards and R2 (i.e., responsible recycling).
- Consider Your Own Habits
The sustainability program at Harvard University took a long, hard look at ways people could go about lowering their lifetime e-waste and reducing their carbon footprint in the process. A few of the things that they came up with might surprise you.
The average American has about two dozen electronic devices, according to findings the EPA made back in 2009. A lot of those have been (or are) prime candidates for retirement. Should all of these devices really be put to pasture, though?
Maybe not. You can try upgrading the memory, hard drive or operating system of your current device, purchasing environmentally conscious devices and devices that serve multiple functions, and protect the devices you already have (e.g., with better cases and not overcharging the battery).
- Donate Your Electronics to a Worthy Cause
E-waste disposal doesn’t have to be icky – there are charities out there right now that would be elated to get your no-longer-needed electronics. Never hesitate to contact Junk King Marin for eco-friendly waste disposal. Contact us for more information.