One Device at a Time
It is estimated by the Consumer Electronics Association that on average there are 24 electronic devices per US household. These electronics have material in them that can be hazardous to the environment. Some items on that list include lead, nickel, mercury, and cadmium. They may also contain many materials that are valuable, like gold and silver.
When these electronics reach their “end-of-life” it’s important to dispose of them properly. A good portion of the material used in electronics can be recycled and sold as raw materials, like precious metals, aluminum and plastic. Recycling these materials reduces the amount of new material being mined or manufactured, which reduces the greenhouse gasses created by that process. Recycling also prevents these materials from going into our landfills and polluting water sources and streams.
According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recycling one million laptops can save enough energy to power more than 3,500 US homes for a full year. Even more amazing, for every one million cell phones we recycle, 35 thousand pounds of copper, 772 pounds of silver, 75 pounds of gold, and 33 pounds of palladium can be recovered, reducing the need to mine these precious metals.
It is really important to give your electronics to a credible recycler though; to be sure the materials are being disposed in a safe and responsible way. There are a number of websites you can use to find responsible recyclers.
One of the largest recycle programs in our area is E-Cycle Washington. It was started in January of 2009. The website is user friendly, and has a “Where do I recycle” link that guides you through a short questionnaire. After answering 5 or 6 questions the site produces a list of locations that will accept your specific electronics. You can also call them at 1 800 RECYCLE.
Last Saturday I used the E-Cycle website to get rid of a television that has been sitting in my garage for 3 years. I simply drove it to the location listed on the website and dropped it off outside the building. It was so easy, I can’t believe it took me 3 years! I did find that some places wanted to charge a service fee, but there are several that will take it for free.
According to E-Cycle Washington almost all of the electronics taken in are disassembled here in Washington State and are not exported to third world countries. On average only 2% of the material from these electronics actually ends up in the landfills and for the most part is made up of particle board from cabinet TV’s.
We can all take small steps that make a big difference. Recycling keeps items like glass, plastic, and metal, out of our landfills so they can be reused and toxic chemicals out of our land and water protecting our environment. Together we can make the world a better place for future generations, one device at a time.