Recycling electronics and other e-waste isn't as easy as it should be, but with the number of heavy metals and other hazardous components in TV sets, computers, cell phones, monitors and other electronic devices, it's important to get the facts on how to recycle electronics.
Americans now own about 24 electronic devices per household, according to the EPA, and many of these get replaced regularly. The average cell phone user, for example, gets a new cell phone every 18 months. Fortunately, recycling electronics is becoming more popular, and about 100 million pounds of material is recovered from electronics recycling plants each year.
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There's an immense mountain of electronic waste that threatens to bury us all -- by some estimates, Americans create about 1.5 billion pounds of e-waste each year. The best, smartest and cheapest way to address this problem is to reduce the amount of electronics that are made in the first place. Resist the temptation to buy every new gadget that comes out, extend the lifespan of your existing electronics as much as possible, and give your old devices a second life by donating your old electronics. Some businesses can even get a tax break by donating computer equipment. The EPA has a list of groups that accept donated and recycled electronics.
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How to Recycle TV Sets
It's important to recycle TV sets properly because many older sets contain up to 8 pounds of lead in addition to plenty of other potentially hazardous materials. Before you dump it, see if you can donate it to a charity, school, church or community group. Your local Goodwill, Salvation Army or thrift store might also be able to use your television. Some retailers like Best Buy will take back your old TV for free -- regardless of where you bought it. For more TV recycling options, check out the listing on Earth911.com.
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How to Recycle Cell Phones
Roughly 100 million cell phones get replaced each year -- that's a lot of arsenic, lead, zinc and other pollutants that could enter the environment. Most companies will accept your old cell phone back, and there are other donation options as well. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, for example, will accept old phones through its partnership with ReCellular. Check for more info on Earth911.com.
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Time to Recycle Computer Parts or Computer Monitors?
Like cell phones, computers and computer peripherals like monitors seem to be built for obsolescence. But even an old computer can still be useful to someone. Check out local donation options, or try the folks at Gazelle.com, who might be able to give you some cash for your old computer. As a last resort, ask your local electronics store or repair shop if they can take it back.Continue to 5 of 6 below.
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Other Electronics Recycling Programs
GreenDisk.com will take back old CDs and DVDs, as well as computers, printers, cords, cables and other electronic jetsam. For inkjet cartridges, contact the manufacturer or take them to a local office supply store. And if you have an old iPod (or other Apple product), you can mail it back or take it back to an Apple store and receive a discount on a new device.
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A Final Word About Recycling Electronics
In our current Electronics Era, you'll find a lot of information about recycling electronics on a local and national level. While some of the larger ones are listed above, you can get more info on local electronics recycling programs through your city's waste management group or from Earth911.com.
If you want to get more active in electronics recycling issues, take a look at the latest video from Annie Leonard, creator of "The Story of Electronics." By designing electronics for the dump, Leonard claims we are forced into a cycle of buying and discarding electronics at an irrational, expensive rate. There has to be a smarter way.