The holidays are arguably the most common electronics upgrade season of the year, which means plenty of people will be getting new shiny gadgets and recycling their old ones. Activists estimate that 50–80 percent of the 300 to 400 thousand tons of electronics collected for recycling in the US each year ends up overseas, meaning they probably aren't being recycled the way we imagine.
"Workers in countries such as China, India, and Nigeria then use hammers, gas burners, and their bare hands to extract metals, glass, and other recyclables, exposing themselves and the environment to a cocktail of toxic chemicals," according to AP. Almost as troubling is the volume of used electronics that don't make it to any recycling plant. Here's more:
Most of the 2 million tons of old electronics discarded annually by Americans goes to US landfills, according to US Environmental Protection Agency data. But a growing number of states are banning such waste from landfills, which could drive more waste into the recycling stream and fuel exports, activists say.
Wondering how you can responsibly recycle your electronic goods?
- Give them back to the maker!: According to AP, eight states, including five this year, have passed laws that require companies to take back their goods. Apple, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, and Sony all take back their products at no charge. Some require consumers to mail in their old gear, while others have drop-off centers.
- Sell it!: Just because you are finished with a computer, MP3 player, or camera doesn't mean someone else won't love it. After erasing your device's memory you can sell it on Craigslist or Amazon. If you don't feel comfortable selling it online, give it to a family member who doesn't have a computer.
- Give it to a reuse effort: Recycles.org is an nonprofit service project that serves as a regional and nationwide exchange board directly connecting those wishing to dispose of computers and nonprofit organizations in need. The service is free and simple to use, making it easy to keep good technology out of the waste stream by putting it back into productivity.