Rapid technology advances have made electronic waste the fastest-growing waste stream
in the U.S. While most of us know how to recycle paper, plastic bottles, or aluminum
cans, many people don't know how to properly dispose of old computers, cellphones
and other electronic devices.
What is E-waste?
E-waste is a term used to describe old or non-functioning electronic and electrical
products. It typically includes equipment and accessories that require electricity
or batteries to operate.
- Computers, monitors, keyboards, etc.
- Cellphones, smartphones and telephones
- Video game systems
- Radios, CD players, MP3 players
- Copiers, scanners, printers
- Various audio and video equipment
What's the problem?
Electronics can contain lead, mercury and various other chemicals and hazardous
wastes. Properly reusing or recycling electronics prevents these metals and toxic
materials from ending up in a landfill, hurting our environment and endangering
When you recycle electronics, valuable materials (metals, plastics and glass) are
extracted and used for new products. As a result, we reduce pollution, protect our
health, save energy, extend the life of landfills and conserve natural resources.
How do I get rid of it?
Don't download your e-waste into landfills! If the electronics are working and
in good condition, donation is the best solution. Passing on ready-to-use or refurbished
equipment to those who need it benefits our community.
Many computer and electronics retailers have take-back or trade-in programs. Check
with businesses in your area to see what they offer.
Some communities have drop-off locations or special events to collect and dispose
of electronics. Check out your community's profile on RecycleSpot for details.
Fees are sometimes charged since electronics recycling is an expensive service that
has associated costs such as proper recycling/disposal methods, trucking, packing
materials, labor and insurance.
Some things to keep in mind when donating or recycling old electronics:
- Ask about any fees to recycle electronics.
- To ensure data security, find out if a provider offers a data wiping service for
- Check and see if an organization practices safe and environmentally responsible
electronics recycling. The Environmental Protection Agency offers advice on what to know about
e-waste certification. Accredited e-waste companies can ensure your e-waste
materials end up in legal and safe end markets.
How can I reduce it?
- Buy used or recycled. Many retailers offer refurbished computers
and equipment. You can also get good deals by purchasing used PCs, tablets and phones
that are a version or season behind.
- Consolidate. Consider items with multiple functions, like a phone
that has a built in music player, GPS, camera, etc.
- Share. Some electronics may not be used frequently. Consider sharing
them with family members, borrowing from neighbors or friends, or renting for occasional
- Use the cloud. Storing files, photos and documents online is now
easier than ever, reducing the need for CDs, server storage and external hard drives.
Where can I learn more?