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Generation of eWaste is increasing, but we are only reusing or recycling about 18% of it. More....

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eCycling Options for eWaste
- by E.A. Zimmerman

Most of us have outdated or broken electronic gadgets lying around that we want to get rid of - cell phones, TVs, music players, DVDs, cameras, game systems, eReaders, GPS, computers, and more.   Because this “eWaste” typically contains toxic heavy metals and plastic, disposing of it in the trash is not good for the environment.  It also increases solid waste management costs.   

Saved by a hairdryer
After my Blackberry took a bath, I was sure it was history. But my ingenious husband rescued it with a hairdryer and some patience. A Proud Doug Zimmerman photo.

Be aware that in January 2011, a new CT law on covered electronic devices (CEDs) will ban throwing CEDS in the trash. The CT DEP is developing regulations that will require manufacturers to finance the transportation and recycling of computers, monitors and TVs.

Fortunately there are a number of viable eWaste options. Some benefit society.  Reuse in any form makes use of the energy and resources that went into manufacturing.

Fix it before you nix it.   Doug accidentally dropped my Blackberry into a tall glass of iced tea.  After 30 minutes with a hair dryer, it worked fine.  While my warrantee did not cover swimming in beverages, your problem could be covered.  If not, talk to a repair technician to see whether fixing it makes sense.

Donate it.  Pass your retired devices on to new users.  This extends the life of a product that still has value.  As they say, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.  Many families and organizations lack the financial wherewithal to afford electronics.  Some organizations send items you no longer need to underprivileged people in developing countries; others to schools and non-profits.  Some will repair broken items, others can only accept working products, so check first.

Sell it.  Your might be pleasantly surprised at the monetary rewards available for recycling contributions of certain items like cell phones and games.  Some re-buyers make it easy by giving you an estimate online of how much money they will pay you, and then send you a prepaid shipping label.  Some donate electronics to needy people/countries. Some offer a coupon towards a new purchase or upgrade.  Shop around a bit if you have time; try online at NextWorth.com, gazelle.com, RecycleBank.com, mailinmobile.com and ecoNEWonline.com.  Of course you can always use Craig’s List, auction sites like eBay, or hold a tag sale.

Freecycle it.  At freecycle.org, your item is listed online in your area, and picked up for free by an interested member of your community. Craig's List has a free stuff section.

Recycle it.  Ask your town to hold an eCycling day.   Make sure that the recycler is environmentally responsible and uses best management practices for eWaste, especially if it is going to be exported. 

Buy from companies that take back old products.  Manufacturers with take-back programs include Apple, Canon, Dell, HP, Nokia, Sony and others.  Many charge a fee, others do it for free – some even offer free shipping. Certain retailers such as Wal-Mart, Costco, Verizon and Staples take back items like older cell phones.   

Don’t buy more.  Resist the urge to always have the latest greatest product.  Ask yourself if you really need a TV in every room.

When you do buy new, buy green.  Choose eco-friendly products that are energy efficient and easier to recycle, repair or upgrade.  They often do not cost more than regular products.   

Before you do anything, be sure to copy and transfer needed information from devices with a memory.  Permanently erase any personal information!  Removing and shredding the hard drive is surely secure. There are several reliable software tools, including Wipe Info (part of Norton Utilities and System Works), for erasing data. Or ask for certification from the recipient that data will be completely removed.

To find out more specifics on options, check with the retailer you purchased the item from, the manufacturer, charities, repair shops, your local public works department, or see digitaltips.org/green.


References and More Information:


Originally published in the Villager newspapers on May 28, 2010


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