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What is e-waste?

Waste from the disposal of electronics – or e-waste – has been a growing problem for many years as the use of iPads, iPhones, computers, and other electronics has rocketed upwards year by year. As new models come in and older or broken electronics are disposed of, more and more waste is produced. In 2013 alone, the United States alone produced 3.14 million tons of electronic waste. Americans, and people globally, need to take action to recycle electronics. 

Disposed-of electronics are made of many different parts, some of which are hazardous to environmental and toxic to human well-being when thrown away improperly or burned. For example, improper disposal can result in the release of lead, mercury, and cadmium into the environment and adversely affect both local ecosystems and human health, and particulate matter released during burning can result in pulmonary and cardiovascular disease.

As figures for e-waste pile up, what can be done to help dispose of your electronics in a healthier and environmentally friendly way? Many people assume that the easiest way to dispose of old tablets, iPhones, televisions, and other appliances and devices is to simply throw them in the garbage. However, not only is it fairly simple to recycle or refurbish that old gaming system or printer—it’s often fairly beneficial for you as well. Aside from the healthy environmental effects of proper disposal, many opportunities exist for gift cards, buyback, sales or even donations of your unwanted electronics. So where do you get started?

Luckily, there are plenty of easy and convenient ways for you to recycle electronics, from local centers to nationwide programs or even giving to your local community projects.

Check your local area for recycling centers

Your first step should be to check and see if there are any recycling centers near where you live. There most certainly will be—but you’ll want to find the closest and most appropriate ones to make sure you get the most out of your trip. Different centers have different methods of disposal and criteria of acceptance. For example, some places won’t accept electronics from individuals, and others will refurbish and resell what you give them. Always be sure to make sure that the location you have chosen will accept what you would like to drop off, either by calling them or visiting their website and clicking the “more info” button. Websites such as EIAE.org and Consumer Technology Association allow you click through the recycling centers in your state or enter your zip code to find the best one for you, and companies like All Green Recycling have searchable databases that allow you to enter your zip code and find their nearest recycling center.

When choosing a location to dispose of electronics, it can sometimes be best to ask how the private information on your electronics will be safely disposed of if they contain any sensitive information—or if you’re simply being careful and would rather not take the risk. Remember to contact your prospective centers if you have any questions or want to ensure they’re disposing of your electronics properly!

Give your used electronics to a retailer

If your recycling centers are a little too far away, or you’re looking for other options, many large companies offer ways to recycle or resell your products. And the best part is: most of them offer you something in return!

Best Buy, Staples, Amazon, and many other retailers with locations nationwide offer incentives, such as gift cards and coupons, if you sell or trade in your products. For example, Best Buy offers to recycle TVs, computers and tablets, video game equipment, printers, audio systems, car parts (such as your unwanted GPS), and other household applications. Staples will offer to recycle your waste bought from any company anywhere for free. Amazon, meanwhile, lets you check to see if the products you’ve bought from them can be sold back for a portion of the price you paid. If there are any large retailers in your area, you can check their website or call them to ask if they have similar opportunities available for recycling or buyback.

Sell your devices online or give them to recycling organizations or companies

Many other opportunities exist as well. E-Cycle, for example, offers businesses and organizations the chance to dispose of their mobile devices as well as free data deletion and shipping. You can trade in your smart phone and other devices for cash on Gazelle, drop off your devices at an LG location, or get a quote from NextWorth for many of your devices including cameras, wearables, mobile phones, and tablets. Many more websites and businesses offer financial or goodwill incentives to trading in your old devices: be sure to do your research and get the best bang for your buck, or provide to the best socially beneficial organization!

Speaking of donations…

Consider donating

One very helpful and very easy way of disposing of your electronics in an environmentally healthy and socially conscious way is to simply offer them as a donation to a local project, club, or community effort. Electronics are expensive, and oftentimes you will find that schools, churches, community projects, after-school programs, and many other organizations that offer social benefits for you and the local area can be aided immensely from the good will of community members like you. When looking for an easy way to dispose of your electronics, simply call around or take a trip to a local church, senior citizen center, or afterschool program and ask if they’ll take your iPhone, tablet, or other devices.

If you can’t find any local programs, you can even give that old computer or iPad to Close the Gap, a non-profit organization that takes electronics and refurbishes them before sending them to educational, health, environmental, or other community-based projects.

Getting rid of your old electronics is an easy, safe, and environmentally beneficial process—but, as always, whether it’s donating, selling, or recycling, be sure to take the proper steps to ensure your data’s safety before handing over that old device!

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