Everyone from diehard conservationists to the federal government is encouraging people to swap their old appliances and electronics for more efficient versions which bear the EnergyStar label. Using less energy is good for your wallet, and the planet, so it’s a good idea to take this advice if you have the resources.
However, refrigerators, computers, dishwashers, VCRs, dryers and other electronic appliances are part of the hazardous waste category commonly referred to as “e-waste”, and that means simply leaving them by the curb for the garbage truck isn’t an option.
The EPA defines hazardous waste as:
“…Waste that is dangerous or potentially harmful to our health or the environment. Hazardous wastes can be liquids, solids, gases, or sludges. They can be discarded commercial products, like cleaning fluids or pesticides, or the by-products of manufacturing processes.
Lead, mercury, cadmium and brominated flame retardants are among the substances of concern in electronics. These substances are included in the products for important performance characteristics, but can cause problems if the products are not properly managed at end of life.”
Here are some planet-friendly suggestions about how to handle those old appliances so that they are utilized to their fullest extent, and properly disposed of…
Electronics can’t be placed at the curb with your bottles and cans, and even if you arrange for pick up from your usual trash hauler, the odds are that they’ll simply toss it in the landfill. And then there’s the worry that the local electronics “recycler” might just ship them overseas where they’ll be picked over by low income families and then incinerated.
Good e-waste recyclers will dismantle the various components of your appliance so that the metals and plastics can be recycled seperately. Then, they will arrange for hazardous elements to be diposed of properly.
For organizations providing information on electronics donation and recycling opportunities in your area, please visit the EPA’s Where Can I Donate My Old Computer and Other Electronic Products? page. You can also check out independent resource sites like Earth911.org which has a directory of recycling facilities all accross the country, plus information about how and why to recycle different materials.
If you’re not to keen on finding a way to haul your old stereo all the way across town to the local e-recycler, you should know that there are several online services that will not only take your e-waste, they might even pay you for it! All you have to do is search for your device, agree to sell it back at the offered price, ship it in and wait for your check.
Gazelle provides a practical, responsible, rewarding way for consumers to get value for used electronics. Even if Gazelle can’t make you an offer for your Zac Morris phone, they’ll still let you send it in for recycling at no charge.
YouRenew is another company dedicated to taking the hassle out of selling or recycling your old devices: you don’t need to make an account, use your credit card, or pay for shipping. Also for each item you recycle with YouRenew, they’ll give you the choice to make a positive impact on the environment. They’ve partnered with Carbonfund.org and Americanforests.org to allow users to donate the price of their electronics towards domestic renewable energy or reforestation efforts.
If you’ve recently upgraded a phone, television or other popular electronic appliance, but the old version still works, it might seem like a waste just to ship it off to a recycler, even if there are few bucks in it for you. If no one in your immediate circle of friends can find a use for the item, consider putting it up for grabs on the Freecycle Network, a grassroots and entirely nonprofit movement of people who give (& get) stuff for free in their own towns. More trust worthy and locally focused than Craig’s List, each local group is moderated by a local volunteer and membership is free. To sign up, find your community group at http://www.freecycle.org/.
You might also think about donating appropriate electronics to non-profit organizations that could use them to further their cause.
“The Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997 states that companies donating personal computers to schools qualify for an enhanced charitable deduction benefit. It also expands tax incentives for private companies donating computer technology, equipment or software to K-12 classrooms.”
Some sites worth checking out:
The Electronics Industry Alliance (EIA), is a national trade organization that includes the full spectrum of U.S. electronics product manufacturers, and maintains a listing of organizations nationwide that accept donations of electronics products.
Share the Technology provides a way for donors and potential recipients to connect, no matter where they are in the country.
Through an extraordinary, nationwide partnership, the Computers for Schools Program welcomes contribution of quality computer equipment and support dollars to accomplish their refurbishing work from donors across the nation.
The Wireless Foundation collects wireless phones to benefit victims of domestic violence.
Image Credit: takomabibelot (Flickr Creative Commons)