#1Thing: Recycling E-Waste The Best Way

Broken Phones, E Waste
Photo credit (Photo: vavlt/Getty Images)
By ALT 92.3
By Lori Melton

Technology is always advancing. On the one hand, this is great. On the other, it means we are constantly upgrading our phones, tablets, computers, and other electronic devices to get the “latest and greatest” model.

You’re not alone if you have a bunch of old cell phones and chargers stuck in a drawer. Collecting defunct devices may not bother you. However, if you’re aiming to declutter, you’ll need to figure out what to do with those old electronics.

Tossing used devices straight into the trash ultimately sets them on a journey toward a landfill and the poisonous toxins in many of them are bad for the environment. In fact, e-waste is such a serious concern that the United Nations, the World Economic Forum, and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development teamed up to tackle the issue by forming the Platform for Accelerating the Circular Economy (PACE). 

According to a 2019 PACE report, “E-waste is the fastest-growing stream of waste in the world” and about 50 million tons of e-waste is produced each year (which is equal to the weight of 125,000 jumbo jets). If we don’t find a way to contain the problem, this figure will skyrocket to more than 120 million tons by 2050. Furthermore, “society only treats about 20 percent of e-waste the right way.”

Thankfully, as awareness of waste-induced toxins that pollute the air and oceans grows, governments, businesses, and citizens are making lifestyle choices that promote sustainability and help protect the planet. Recycling e-waste properly is an important part of eco-conscious living. The question is, what is the best way to do it?

New York E-Waste Laws

Many could argue that New York leads the charge in U.S. efforts to combat the harmful effects of climate change. In 2010, the state signed the New York State Electronic Equipment Reuse and Recycling Act into law. The act “requires manufacturers to provide free and convenient recycling of electronic waste to most consumers in the state.”

Under the law, it’s illegal to throw away toxic electronic devices including laptop and desktop computers, monitors, keyboards, mice, printers, scanners, fax machines, small scale servers, televisions, game consoles, VCRs, DVD players, portable MP3 players, tablets, e-readers and more.

Recycling regulations for cell phones are different. The NYS Wireless Telephone Recycling Act requires wireless service providers that sell wireless phones to allow any person to drop off up to 10 cell phones for free reuse and recycling.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 25 U.S. states (including New York and the District of Columbia) have e-waste laws. You can visit the Electronics Recycling Coordination Clearinghouse website to get state-specific e-waste regulation information.

Follow Best E-Waste Recycling Practices

Obviously, storing unused items in a closet or drawer provides the least risk of harming the environment. However, following some general best practices will enable you to clear out your storage areas and recycle your old electronics items responsibly.

Most importantly, don’t just toss your equipment in the trash. Some items contain hazardous materials like lead, mercury, beryllium, chromium, and cadmium. Others contain precious metals like silver, gold, and copper. Those materials could potentially be upcycled to reuse in other items.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) gives consumers two e-waste recycling options.

First, use a manufacturer’s takeback program. Check out the NYSDEC’s list of registered electronic equipment manufacturers to find out what types of devices are covered and the company’s acceptance program phone number and website. Follow their free online or phone instructions to properly recycle your unwanted electronics devices.

Second, take your items to an electronic waste collection site. New York residents can check the list of NYS Electronic Waste Collection Sites to find out where to drop off your stuff.

If you live outside of New York, the best thing to do is take your old electronics to your nearest E-Steward Certified e-waste recycling facility. Unfortunately, some recycled devices are traded illegally. Certified e-stewards will safely and legally recycle electronics.

Repair, Reuse and Resell to Reduce E-Waste

Overall, reducing the amount of e-waste you generate helps protect the planet. So, instead of recycling a non-working laptop or buying an upgraded model, get yours repaired and keep using it.

You can also give unwanted items to a friend or family member, donate them to a school, or sell them online at sites like eBay or decluttr.