I’m typing this on my new laptop computer while Mike works on the store’s main computer, the ipod is shuffling away through the stereo, and my cell phone is charging in the next room. All of these gadgets have improved our lives in ways we never could have imagined, and now we can’t live without them. Unfortunately, the life spans of these devices are fairly short, as new and better versions become available all the time. This leads to an incredible disposal problem, and not just because of the amount of space that all of this electronic refuse consumes (according to the recycling company E-Waste Solutions, individuals and organizations worldwide will replace more than 400 million computers in the next 3 years). Did you know that as much as 25% of a monitor’s weight is lead?<! — more — > Some older monitors and TVs can contain up to 8 pounds of lead! Electronic equipment also contains loads of other metals and chemicals, like mercury, cadmium and fire retardants. When disposed of improperly, these toxic metals and chemicals leach into our soil and water supply. In fact, 70% of heavy metals in landfills come from discarded electronic equipment. The other ugly secret is that 50-80% of electronic waste that has been collected by “recyclers” has been exported to developing countries, where laws about the disposal of toxic materials are more lax. This poses quite a danger to the people and to the environment of these countries. To read more about this exporting issue, visit this link
The good news is that there are many good recycling operations, and a lot of the materials that make up electronic materials (glass, steel, gold, etc) can actually be recycled, and the toxic materials can be captured and reused or properly disposed of. Also, many computer companies are now taking back old computers when you buy a new one.
Some of the recyclers will take any item with a plug. This is good news for me, as I know I have a few old cordless phones that I haven’t wanted to throw away because of the batteries inside, and scads of telephone and stereo cables clogging up my junk drawers and tool boxes.
A quick Google search for electronic waste recycling in your state should make it easy to find a place to bring your stuff. Here are a few links to help as well:
Anyone can take seven or fewer computers (desktops, laptops and tablets), monitors, TVs and printers at a time to participating Oregon E-Cycles collection sites for free recycling. Computer peripherals (keyboards and mice) are also accepted free of charge.
Apple takes back computers, as do other brands.
Free Geek can be a great resource