Earth Day is April 22, and a good time to think about something that’s important all year round: recycling electronics. Electronic waste is different than most because it often contains toxic materials that require special handling. Higher-end electronics like cellphones and computers also contain mined metals that are valuable and relatively easy to recycle.
Here are a few stats from the EPA to put it in perspective:
- Recycling one million laptops saves the energy equivalent of the electricity used by more than 3,500 U.S. homes in a year.
- For every million cell phones we recycle, 35,000 pounds of copper, 772 pounds of silver, 75 pounds of gold and 33 pounds of palladium can be recovered.
The list of toxic stuff in electronics is a real witch’s brew of bad things ranging from lead and mercury to chlorofluorocarbons and arsenic. Some items, like smoke detectors and medical equipment, can even have radioactive substances in them. It’s a good idea to do our part and make sure these things are disposed of properly.
Where to recycle
Even though your typical curbside recycling provider won’t handle e-waste, there are plenty of places that do. Did you know, for example, that retailers like Best Buy and Staples will take old TVs, mobile devices and computers with no charge? You might call your local store before you show up with your old 400-pound Sony, but generally you can just head over to the customer service counter and hand these items to the clerk.
If you don’t have one of these stores nearby, check the manufacturer’s website to see if they offer any kind of mail-in recycling program. Apple, LG, Vizio, Sprint, Samsung and Dell are just a few of the manufacturers that have such programs, and some will even give you credit for your old clunker.
Yet another option is a private electronics recycling center. Here’s a list of them by state.
But before you give your old laptop or TV the heave-ho, you might check to see if it’s repairable. Even if you no longer want it, someone may, and there are plenty of outfits out there that will buy old electronics, fix and resell them (especially Apple gear). Google around and see if that’s an option, and you might even get a few bucks for your stuff.
If it is truly the end of the road for you and your electronic device, be sure to completely erase any personal information before sending it on its way. For mobile devices, look for a “factory reset” option to wipe the device clean. For Windows computers, look for “remove everything and reinstall Windows” in settings. On a Mac, use the Disk Utility program to wipe your disc.