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Ultimate Guide to Recycling Electronics

It can be extremely tempting to toss obsolete and broken electronics in the trash. However recycling electronics offers a far better alternative, removing “e-waste” from your home, and preventing heavy metals found in these product from contaminating soil and water.

A Prolific Problem

Americans own around 24 electronic products per household according to the Consumer Electronic Association. These product break or are replaced with newer models, leaving 2.4 million tons of electronic waste in American landfills annually according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Comprising only two percent of landfill trash, these items account for 70 percent of overall toxic waste.

Support the Solution: Recycle Electronics

Which electronics can be recycled? Common types of e-waste which are easily recyclable include:

  • Cell Phones
    Of the 100 million cell phones purchased annually – only 20 percent of those cast aside are recycled. Accumulating to the tune of around 65,000 tons of electronic garbage annually, these items, which house gold, silver, copper, and palladium, could be easily recycled or sold back to cell phone carriers, or donated to local charities such as Cell Phones for Soldiers and Hope Phones.
  • Computer Equipment
    Nearly 130,000 computers are dumped in landfills daily. However computers and accompanying equipment from mice and keyboards to tablets and copy machines should never be dumped in a landfill. Nearly every component of these items are valuable and recyclable, from plastics and glass to metals. However a reputable recycling organization/program is key to protecting personal information and proper handling of materials. Computer manufacturers and retailers often accept these for free, even without a new purchase.
  • TVs
    Even go-to donation sites like Goodwill and Salvation Army no longer take analog TVs, and most municipalities prohibit the disposal of these items at the landfill due to the large amounts of lead they contain. Luckily, many TV manufacturers and retailers will take back and recycle old products – analog or digital - for free. The Electronic Industries Alliance also provides a list of non-profits that accepts used, working models. Otherwise, check with your city regarding special disposal days or drop-off sites.   
  • DVD Players, VCRs, Stereos, MP3s, Home Phones…
    As well as audio equipment, calculators, recording devices, and digital clocks broken or deemed obsolete by you may find a new life elsewhere. Whether refurbished, repurchased at the area consignment store, or scrapped for recyclable parts ranging from plastic and glass to precious metals, recycling this large class consumer electronics could keep literal tons of waste and toxic metals out of landfills. If your item’s not ripe for donation, contact your local municipality regarding e-waste pickup or drop-off locations.

Stop! These Items Typically Do NOT Make the Recyclable Materials List

Some items are not commonly recycled through the e-waste recycling process, but CAN be recycled through other programs. These include microwaves and other large appliances such as refrigerators and stoves, which contain dangerous electrical components and/or gases that can be harmful to the environment. Ionization smoke detectors, which contain trace amounts of radioactive material, and mercury-containing thermometers also require special handling. If you are unsure of proper disposal, the E.P.A., your city, county, or state government can point you in the right direction. As with many of the above recyclable products, manufacturers and retailers may accept these items for complimentary in-house recycling as well. However the most environmentally friendly way to dispose of these items is to donate it for reuse.

Recycling electronics isn’t difficult. It simply involves more conscientious purchase and disposal consideration. Save the earth, and its children, from the dangers of improperly disposed electronics. Join Mr. Electric in making a change for the better, beginning today.

This blog is made available by Mr. Electric for educational purposes only to give the reader general information and a general understanding on the specific subject above. The blog should not be used as a substitute for a licensed electrical professional in your state or region. Check with city and state laws before performing any household project.