E-Cycling: Steps On How To Do It Right

Right off the top of the head if someone asks what is one electronic item most people use “The Cellphone” is sure to make the top 5, so will the Personal Computer or PC as it is referred to. This is the age of technology where distances have reduced to kbps and people talk across the world over VOIP. Technological advancement also meant additional products being brought by more people every year thus also adding to more electronic gadgets heading to the landfills.

Two million tons of tech trash ended up in landfills in 2005, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and only about 380,000 tons were recycled. If Americans recycled the more than 100 million cell phones that are no longer used, the amount of energy saved would be enough to power approximately 18,500 U.S. households for one year!

On Average people keep laptops for 3-4 years and cellphones are exchanged or trashed every 24 months! Imagine the amount of waste produced if they all end up in waste dumps! The first option should be reusing, You can either donate you used and working electronics to charitable organizations or you can find buyers for functioning second hand electronics easily online and there are also local stores which do the same. Make sure you erase the data multiple times before handing out any electronic items as most erase commands can be undone using strong programs and can lead to identity theft.  For more details on identity theft protection check this link

How can we best recycle our electronics?

Depending on where you live and the products you want to recycle, you can:

  • Find an e-waste collection event in your town – SEARCH HERE
  • Send your used tech stuff back to the manufacturer – SEARCH HERE
  • The Consumer Electronics Association , Electronic Industries Alliance , and Earth 911 Web sites identify electronic equipment recyclers in many areas around the country.
  • Head to a nearby retailer that accepts old electronics (Some have buy backs while others have postal e-cycling options, paid and for free..) – LOOK FOR STORES NEAR YOU HERE
  • With Cellphones and their chargers it is simple, most manufacturers have a mail in option to return your phone for recycling or you can find drop off points near where you are. What you need to do before you send it off for recycling:
    • Terminate your service.
    • Clear the phone’s memory of contacts and other stored information.
      • Manually delete all information, and follow instructions from your wireless carrier or the product manual on how to conduct a factory hard reset; or
      • Use data erasing tools that are available on the Web. One tool can be found here
    • Remove your SIM card and shred or cut it in half. If you are not sure if your phone uses a SIM card or if you need assistance removing your SIM card, contact your service provider or manufacturer.

With Computers too manually erase data using a strong tool like Eraser

To Donate Computers find an organization HERE
What all can be recycled?

  • Computers – CPU’s and laptops, mainframes, peripherals
  • Monitors – CRT’s and flat screens
  • Telephones, Cell phones and Telephone systems
  • Fax Machines and Central Office Equipment
  • Printers and Copiers
  • Televisions
  • Banking and Financial Equipment
  • Medical Equipment
  • Rechargeable batteries
  • Electronic Circuit boards and components
  • Stereo Equipment, Games, PDA’s

Some facts about e-recycling:

  • In 2007, approximately 18 percent (414,000 short tons) of TVs and computer products ready for end-of-life management were collected for recycling.
  • Cell phones were recycled at a rate of approximately 10 percent.
  • Recycling one million laptops saves the energy equivalent to the electricity used by 3,657 US homes in a year.
  • One metric ton of circuit boards can contain 40 to 800 times the concentrations of gold ore mined in the US and 30-40 times the concentration of copper ore mined in the US.
  • A recent, survey of three large mobile device recyclers indicated that in 2009 approximately 38% of mobile devices collected for recycling were reused/refurbished and 62% were recycled for material recovery.
  • The plastics recovered from cell phones are recycled into plastic components for new electronic devices or other plastic products such as garden furniture, license plate frames, non-food containers, and replacement automotive parts.
  • Cell phones have a number of different metals in them which can be recycled. For every million cell phones we recycle, 35,274 pounds of copper, 772 pounds of silver, 75 pounds of gold, and 33 pounds of palladium can be recovered. Recovering metals from used cell phones can reduce extraction of raw metals from the earth.
  • The principal markets for refurbished cell phones extend beyond the US—availing access to modern communication technology to many people in developing economies with who would not otherwise be able to afford it.

Last but not the least keep in mind if and when buying new electronics be aware and look for electronics which:

  • Contain fewer toxic constituents.
  • Use recycled materials in the new product.
  • Are energy efficient (e.g., showing the Energy Star label).
  • Are designed for easy upgrading or disassembly.
  • Use minimal packaging.
  • Offer leasing or takeback options.
  • Meet performance criteria showing they are environmentally preferable.
    • Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT) is a procurement tool to help institutional purchasers in the public and private sectors evaluate, compare and select desktop computers, notebooks and monitors based on their environmental attributes. EPEAT also provides a clear and consistent set of performance criteria for the design of products, and provides an opportunity for manufacturers to secure market recognition for efforts to reduce the environmental impact of its products.

We can have the best programs and technology in the world but nothing matters unless each one of us takes responsibility for our actions. One cell phone, one battery, one PC at a time we can make a difference. Live Green!

Sources :US EPA Website

NRDC Green Living Guide

You can also recycle your cellphone here

USPS Postal recycling

Interesting Reads :

An Interesting article in wired.com

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