The hottest selling items this holiday season were electronic gadgets – from smartphones and tablets, to gaming systems and televisions.
Our electronic-driven world has changed our society, by making everything within a tap, swipe and click’s reach. However, electronic devices contain trace amounts of toxic substances including lead, mercury, and hexavalent chromium in circuit boards, batteries and old monitors.
Lead in drinking water has been linked to mental and physical developmental disabilities in babies and children. Mercury exposure has also been linked to mental disabilities in developing children, and more recently there is evidence to support it may cause heart disease in adults. And hexavalent chromium is a known carcinogen which may cause cancer.
All of these toxins are increasing in our environment as we become more reliant on our mobile devices, and other electronic tech toys.
Electronic-waste – or e-waste makes up about 2 percent of America’s trash in landfills, but translates into 70 percent of overall toxic waste. About 20 to 50 million metric tons of e-waste are disposed of worldwide every year.
E-waste is the fastest growing municipal waste stream in America, yet only about 12.5 percent of e-waste is currently recycled.
Over 90 percent of our electronic gadgets can be broken down into components which can be recycled, from the various metals, glass and plastics used in the frame, to the actual circuit boards which makes them go.
That’s great, you think, as you sit back and watch your new big screen television, tap away on your new tablet, or send a text from your new smartphone, but what can I do about it?
Here’s how you can eliminate e-waste from your garbage dump:
Donate Old Electronics
One person’s waste is another person’s treasure — some registered charities such as the David Suzuki Foundation and Habitat For Humanity will gladly accept your e-waste for recycling. Check with your local charitable organizations to see how you can remove your e-waste from the waste stream, while helping a good cause.
Check with the Manufacturer
Many manufacturers have realized there’s money not just in selling new gadgets, but in recycling old ones – and it doesn’t hurt their public image either. The Electronic Manufacturers Recycling Company was founded by Panasonic, Sharp and Toshiba, but now has a growing list of over 21 participating manufacturers.
Check with Where You Buy Electronics
Some electronics retailers have hopped on the e-waste train, and will accept your old gadgets for proper recycling, including BestBuy.
Check Your Local Municipality
Many municipalities see the value of diverting e-waste from landfill and have established programs where you can drop off old electronics for recycling. In Canada’s largest province, Ontario, you can recycle your e-waste by checking out this website. Other provinces are going green with their e-waste, including Alberta, and Nova Scotia. Some municipalities in the United States also accept electronic gadgets. Check with your local municipal, provincial, or state government to see if they accept old electronics, and if they do, where you can take them.
Hire Someone to Take Your E-Waste
As a last resort, you can always hire a private waste management firm to collect your e-waste – you might want to wait until you have a substantial amount to make it worthwhile. 1-800-Got-Junk will come to you and collect your e-waste for proper recycling – for a fee. There are other companies which offer this service, shop around to ensure you get the best price, and that your e-waste is being disposed of properly. No sense in paying for someone to take your e-waste, if they are just going to chuck it into the trash.
If you are a manufacturer or have a lot of e-waste, then check out recycle.net – it’s the Craig’s List of recycling, but only for those with a lot to recycle – say 1,000 large screen televisions, instead of just one.