Almost everyone in the world uses consumer electronics devices in one form or another. We live, work, communicate, or get entertained through our TV sets, desktops, laptops, tablets, and mobile phones. We use wearable electronics such as GPS watches, health monitors, smart glasses, and dive computers. These amazing gadgets are just the beginning; we’ll be seeing more revolutionary devices as technology advances.
There is one catch, however, about electronics. Just like many other products, electronic gadgets eventually fail and reach the end of their useful life. Perhaps they might be rendered obsolete by a newer, better, more powerful, and more functional counterpart. This leads to a global need to safely recycle your outdated consumer electronics.
The Root Cause and Effects
Some companies even engineer their products so that they should be discarded at some point in time. For example, your mobile phone with a built-in battery will become useless when the battery nears its cycling life. With a non-functional battery, you will be forced to dispose of the phone. In addition, repairing a modern electronic gadget can be costlier, more complex, or more of a hassle than buying a new gadget. Such is the bane of planned obsolescence.
Predictably, this contributes to a global waste management problem. With billions of people disposing various useless electronic gadgets, a massive buildup of electronic waste has become unavoidable. In fact, as shocking waste generation and recycling statistics reveals, the volume of this type of waste is rapidly rising as more and more people use and throw away electronics.
What’s even worse, improperly disposed electronics can release substances such as cadmium, mercury, lithium, and lead. These are toxic substances and pollutants, which could potentially harm the environment. That doesn’t include glass, sharp metals, and other bits that could injure both humans and animals.
Reducing and Recycling Electronic Waste
Recycling and disposing electronics need a little bit of thought so you can properly discard your used up gadgets without putting the environment—and human health—in jeopardy. The process of recycling and discarding electronics involve some special procedures and processes to ensure safety and security.
Delete All Files
Before doing anything else, it’s important to delete all the files in your gadget. Before doing that, you should take care to transfer files to your desktop or laptop, or back them up to a service like Apple iCloud or Google Drive. While unlikely, someone unscrupulous may access your sensitive files, which could mean a whole lot of trouble for you.
This does not just involve simply deleting the files. You need to actually wipe your hard drive or SSD drive so no one can retrieve your files. You can use software such as Active Kill Disk or one of the utilities on Softpedia for this task, or simply reformat the entire gadget using the built-in tools in the OS. Some recyclers can also do this after you pay an extra charge.
Never Put Electronic Waste in the Trash
Electronics have toxic substances in them. If you put e-waste in your trash bin and it ends up in a landfill without proper processing, those toxic substances can leach into the ground and penetrate into the aquifer below the soil. These substances can contaminate the water, which becomes a health hazard if the aquifer is the municipality’s potable water source.
Put Damaged Electronics in a Plastic Bag
Your electronic gadget may have been damaged extensively, such as exhibiting a cracked LCD, battery corrosion residue, and more. Thus, put damaged electronics in a sealed plastic bag to contain any dangerous substances that might be seeping out of the gadget before disposing of it.
Donate Used Electronics
As your business venture grows, you might want or need to upgrade your laptop. While you purchase a new unit, your old one may still be usable and in good condition. If so, donate it to a school, non-profit organization, or a charity.
These entities have limited budget and are often in dire need of equipment for the communities they serve. They welcome donated equipment from warm-hearted individuals, groups, and businesses. Think of it: you’re doing something good for both society and the environment.
Alternatively, you can donate to programs such as Dell Reconnect, eBay for Charity, or World Computer Exchange. These organizations will take care of your electronics and distribute them to the needy.
Return to the Manufacturer
A lot of electronic manufacturers and retailers have jumped on the green movement bandwagon and have instituted their own recycling programs. Check out this list from the Environmental Protection Agency; it allows you to search recycling programs by company or product. Retailers, hardware stores, and the Home Depots of the world also have their own recycling programs. Examples of such programs include:
- Apple’s Give Back program offers gift cards or in-store credits for products that qualify for recycling;
- Amazon offers gift cards in exchange for trade-in electronics of all sorts;
- Office Depot affinity members receive a $2 credit per ink and toner cartridge that is returned to them.
Use Mail-Back Services
Ask your phone’s manufacturer if they have mail-back services so you can mail back your used phone for proper recycling and disposal. Alternatively, you can opt for mail-back organizations such as Call 2 Recycle. These organizations can offer you freebies or money-back options if you mail your electronics to them. They also have drop sites where you can deposit your old phones.
Sell Them To Electronic Repair Shops
There are people who make a living by repairing gadgets. Sell your old gadgets to them. Most likely, they will strip your old gadgets for parts that they can use to repair other gadgets. In the hands of a skilled electronics technician, no part of your old gadget goes to waste.
Send Them To Your Local Recycling Plant
Sending them to your local recycler should be your final option. Your local recycling plant has the equipment and facility to properly process used electronics for recycling and waste disposal.
Do Your Part to Safely Recycle
The vast array of electronic gadgets around us make living our lives a whole lot easier. But electronic gadgets need to be treated with care, from buying them to discarding them. By following the tips above, you’re assured that you’re using and disposing of your gadgets responsibly. You might even recover some money to help you purchase a replacement in the process, or help a needy recipient in a charity program.