E-waste, or electronics garbage, is the fastest growing portion of the U.S. trash stream.
In 2009 Americans discarded 3,190,000 tons of it, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Although e-waste is a general term, it can be considered to cover televisions, computers, mobile phones, toasters, stereo systems—basically any item with circuitry or electrical components with power or battery supply.
Currently more than 82 percent of discarded electronics end up in the trash, even though they often contain hazardous chemicals, like lead and barium, that can leach out of landfills and into groundwater and streams. While there is no federal law banning e-waste, 25 states have passed legislation mandating statewide e-waste recycling.
Toxic chemicals, carcinogens and heavy metals are all part of what makes your computer run. Obviously, then, computers shouldn’t be kicked to the curb on garbage day.
Should I donate or recycle my computer?
While there is no right answer, there is definitely no excuse for your not taking action to ensure your computer doesn’t rot for eternity in some forgotten landfill.
This EPA link provides no less than 26—yes, 26!—online avenues you can pursue to find a local solution for your old computer.
After years of clinging to your decrepit analog television, you’ve finally decided to purchase a dramatic upgrade, most likely some fancy-schmancy flat-screen monstrosity. More power to you. We’ve got no beef with your decision. It is step two in the television upgrade process for which we feel compelled to offer some eco-friendly advice, namely, don’t kick the old one to the curb. Older televisions can contain up to eight pounds of lead, as well as other NSFG (not safe for groundwater) chemicals like barium, cadmium, and chromium. In 2007 Americans had accumulated 99 million TVs in storage and discarded nearly 27 million TVs.
Don’t throw away your television, recycle it locally!
(Photo: Reuters/Stringer Shanghai)
The heart of all electronic devices, batteries fall into two broad types: dry cell and wet cell. Mostly used in consumer electronics, dry cell batteries include alkaline and zinc batteries (AA and AAA, for example) as well as lithium batteries (9-volt, C, and rechargeable batteries). Every person in the U.S discards eight dry cell batteries per year, on average. Wet cell batteries, on the other hand, are typically used to power cars, boats and motorcycles.
Eighteen months. This is about how long your average consumer keeps his cell phone before deciding to upgrade. Such a high turnover rate leads to the annual retirement of more than 130 million U.S. cell phones. Sadly, only one percent of all U.S. cell phones are recycled each year.
A whole bunch of retail stores (namely Best Buy) will accept your old cell, but we like these three online recycling resources because they will make a contribution to charity:
Constructed from petroleum-based plastic products, ink cartridges take, on average, 1,000 years to decompose in a landfill. Each year 300 million of these cartridges are thrown away. This equates to 75,000 tons of trash. Yikes. What’s worse, only around 30 percent of all ink cartridges are recycled. Lucky for you—and the planet—most ink cartridges can be recycled up to six times. Two of the best sites to figure out where you can upcycle your used ink cartridges are Recycle Place and Empties 4 Cash.