Q&A: E-Waste?

  • November 7, 2012 9:24 am

Question:

Hi Alexandra,

I wanted to know if you could tell me where to recycle old electronics? Thanks.

Best,

Mandy

Answer:

Hi Mandy,

Odd to be responding to this after a week I’ve just spent without my electronics, thanks to Hurricane Sandy knocking out electricity in my New York neighborhood (oh what I would have given for a battery powered radio, which I sadly didn’t have). And on a day when all I can think about is the election and the impact who we vote for has on the environment, chemical reform policy, and so much more. But life goes on and Wednesdays are my Q&A days! So here goes.

This is a great question actually; recycling electronics properly is so important. E-waste is extremely harmful to both humans and the environment. I wonder what will happen to all of the broken electronics from the storm. Will anyone sort them out of the piles and piles of soaked furniture, construction materials, and broken bits of life?

Here is an excerpt addressing e-waste from Planet Home, a book I co-wrote with Jeffrey Hollender:

“The constant desire for new electronics has caused an abundance of electronic waste, or e-waste, which is filled with hazardous substances that aren’t easily recycled and shouldn’t be thrown away. Electronics may contain lead, mercury, and flame retardants (which are added because they generate heat that can lead to fire when housed in flammable plastic), among other dangerous materials, and extra steps are necessary to ensure they’ll be refurbished and reused or recycled. When tossed in a landfill, their toxic components leach into the groundwater; when incinerated, they pollute the air and can harm workers.”

The takeaway here? Try to use what you own for as long as you can. Don’t give in to the lure of the latest iThing every time a new gadget comes out. If your electronics are truly no longer useful to you, try to donate them to someone or to an organization that might still find them useful. If something is really done, take care to recycle it properly.

Here in New York, there are many places that collect e-waste, including the Lower East Side Ecology Center. For places near you, check out Earth911.com. Also, America Recycles Day falls on November 15th this year. Their site has information on recycling e-waste as well as many other items that need recycling. Hope this helps.

Best,

Alexandra

Electronics Recycling

  • January 18, 2011 6:34 pm

Many resources go into creating electronics. Keeping old versions for as long as you're willing to use them reduces both the consumption of these resources and e-waste.

When you're truly through with an item, try to reuse before recycling. Move an unwanted VCR and your old VHS tape collection into a guest bedroom, where it might delight a visitor. Give your out-of-favor TV to a relative or friend who could use it, or donate it to an organization. If all else fails, take it to an electronics recycling event.

Whatever you do, make sure it doesn't wind up in a trash heap. Older CRT TVs contain lead and other toxic chemicals–not something we need more of in our landfills. The Electronics TakeBack Coalition is a good resource for locating responsible recyclers in each state. Unfortunately, not all recyclers are trustworthy, and some don't handle your electronics as they claim they're going to. TakeBack maintains a list of TV companies with take-back programs. Earth911.com also helps connect conscious consumers to electronics recyclers.

Find more tips on conscious consuming and electronics recycling in "Planet Home: Conscious Choices for Cleaning & Greening the World You Care About Most."