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Ways to Discard Old Electronics
Electronic devices include computers, printers, monitors, calculators, cell phones, answering machines, digital cameras, video-cassette recorders, DVD players, CD players, MP3 players, and some household appliances with electronic components. Many of these devices are commonplace, and with their pervasiveness, a number of issues accompany the use of these items. When the items outlive their usefulness, become obsolete, or break, consumers need to dispose of them. The internal components of electronics make it risky to place them into standard landfills. Over time, heavy metals such as lead, chromium, and cadmium can leach into the environment, causing harm. Consequently, it's necessary to recycle or dispose of electronics correctly to avoid damaging the environment. Communities generally have facilities and services in place to help consumers dispose of these items correctly.
Recycling old electronics is an effective way to keep these items from harming the environment in landfills. Not only do electronic devices contain hazardous materials and non-biodegradable materials that leech into the air, soil, and water, they often contain non-renewable resources that would be lost with disposal. These devices contain materials such as glass, steel, and plastic. They may also contain precious metals such as gold. Recycling old devices that still function can benefit people who may not have access to these devices. Programs are in place that collect donated electronics to give them to those in need. Recycling nonfunctioning devices makes it possible for them to be disassembled to recover parts and materials that can be reused. Before donating a device, always remove all data from the internal memory. A special sanitation process wipes hard drives clean of all data to prevent someone else from accessing it after recycling. Another recycling option that saves money and eliminates waste is to reuse or recycle ink cartridges for printers. To reuse ink cartridges, consumers purchase additional ink to refill cartridges. To recycle the cartridges, consumers take them to retailers or facilities. Many retailers give consumers discounts when they recycle ink cartridges. Recycling used batteries is another important step to eliminating environmental harm. Many communities have drop-off sites or facilities available that will accept all types of electronic batteries, except alkaline batteries.
Drop-off sites may collect electronic items for recycling or for donation. Recycling drop-off sites may be permanent facilities that accept items from consumers. Communities may also host special drop-off events for consumers during specific days of the year. Donation centers might function independently, or they could be a subsidiary facility working in conjunction with a community center, a senior center, a recreation center, or even a retailer. As with recycling, consumers must always take the time to sanitize a computer or other electronic device to wipe hard drives clean of all data.
Resale of Electronics
Reselling electronic items that still function is another option for disposing of devices. Consumers can use a number of Internet resources to resell devices. Auction websites and ecommerce websites that list used items are two popular options. With these websites, consumers simply list their items with pictures and prices, and other consumers bid or purchase. Some retailers offer an option for consumers to "trade in" their functioning electronics for credits or gift cards to spend with the retailer. Other companies offer resale of electronics with consumers receiving a check or other direct payment. People could also sell gently used electronic items at rummage sales or through classified ads. Sanitizing devices is a crucial step prior to reselling an item.
Buying Green Electronics
When purchasing new electronic devices, consumers can make green buying decisions that will impact how they dispose of the items in the end. Devices made from recycled materials or fewer toxic materials would be preferable choices. Appliances with energy efficient designs and ratings are a better environmental choice. It's also better to buy items with less packaging. Buying devices that will upgrade easily is another option that eliminates the need to dispose of items so quickly. Some retailers also offer take-back or recycling options as a part of new electronics purchases to make disposal easier for consumers.
- The Future of Electronic Waste Recycling in the United States: Obstacles and Domestic Solutions (PDF)
- Electronic Waste Disposal
- Frequently Asked Questions: E-Waste
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- Electronics Disposal - Environmental Health and Safety
- Electronics Re-use/Recycling
- Electronics Donation and Recycling
- How to Recycle Old Electronics
- How Technology Can Harm the Environment
- Electronics: A New Opportunity for Waste Prevention, Reuse, and Recycling (PDF)
- Recycling Personally Owned Computers and Electronics
- When Disposing of Electronic Devices, Don't Forget to Delete any Sensitive Data!