How To Recycle Old Electronics

By Tracey Dowdy

This Saturday is Earth Day. Since it was first celebrated on April 22, 1970, Earth Day has become a global movement and is often credited with spawning the widespread environmental advocacy that we see today.

One of the greatest areas of environmental impact is e-waste. A 2015 study by the UN found that the United States produces more e-waste than any other country. In fact, we produce a million tons a year more than the country in second place – China.

It’s imperative that our old electronics don’t end up in landfills. Alongside toxins in plastic and other manufacturing materials, many of them contain heavy metals which poison the water table and have long-term environmental impact.

Be a good steward of the environment and dispose of those electronics safely. It takes very little effort and the benefits will last for generations to come.

e-Stewards provides “the best electronic waste recycling solution for forward-thinking recyclers, enterprises and consumers.” The program is run by non-profit Basel Action Network, with a mission of ensuring e-waste is disposed of responsibly around the world. Search for a recycler in your area here.

Best Buy may be recycling’s biggest kept secret. The list of electronics they accept is massive, and even if they don’t accept in-store drop off, they may pick the item (think appliances and large TV’s), depending on local laws. You may not have noticed them, but there are recycling kiosks at the front doors to drop off items like ink/toner cartridges, cables, and batteries. You can bring in up to three items a day and for the most part, the service is free. A $20 fee applies to small tube TVs or CRT monitors.

Office Depot/Office Max sells tech recycling boxes in small, medium and large for $5 – $15. Stuff as much old tech and electronics in there as you can, bring it back to the store unsealed, and they’ll ship it off to recycling plants to be sorted by glass, plastic, copper and aluminum. This link takes you to a page that lists what it will and will not accept.

Call2Recycle specifically focuses on rechargeable batteries and cell phones. Follow the link , type in your state or your zip code, and they’ll pull up a list of retailers in your area that are Call2Recycle drop off sites. They’ve partnered with several familiar faces – Staples, Lowes, Home Depot, Verizon, and Apple Stores to name a few – so finding a location is easier than you think.

Finally, most major cell phone providers have programs for old devices. Some, like Verizon’s HopeLine actually do good work with your unwanted device. They take phones, chargers, batteries and accessories in working or non-working order, refurbish them, and provide them to victims of domestic violence living in shelters around the country, free of charge.

Sprint, T-Mobile, and AT&T all take back old devices, and some will even pay you for them, check with each provider for details.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.


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