Used electronic devices, known as e-waste, are increasingly becoming a larger part of our waste. Fortunately, there are a number of options available to those who want to recycle their old electronic items.
To address the increasing amount of e-waste, many state and local governments, electronics manufacturers, and non-profit organizations have created comprehensive recycling programs. Several states, including California, Maine, Maryland, Texas and Washington, have even enacted laws requiring the collection of certain electronics.
E-waste recycling options vary across the country. So, the first step to determine what options are available in your area is to review information about your local recycling program. This information is available on Earth 911 (using the recycling locator database at the top of this page), some local government websites and the following websites:
E.P.A. Product Stewartship
National Recycling Coalition
E Recycling Central (includes a list of questions to ask recyclers)
Basel Action Network
Computer Take Back Campaign
In addition to “traditional” recycling programs, some electronics manufacturers and retailers also offer e-waste recycling. Many manufacturer-sponsored programs will accept and process their brand for free. Some accept other brands for a small fee.
After determining what options are available, it is important to determine whether a recycler is operating under strict environmental controls and high worker safety protections. A few general questions to ask include:
Is the recycler certified (such as an ISO 14001 environmental management certification) and does it follow a set of industry recognized guidelines?
Does the recycler actually recycle most of the e-waste materials collected (It is best if the company can recycle 90 percent or more of the materials)?
Does the recycler have written procedures for removing and disposing of mercury lamps in electronic products? Many manufacturer and government sponsored programs have extensive online information detailing the way in which recycling is handled.
In addition to choosing a recycler, it is also important to prepare your e-waste for recycling. For computer recycling, one important concern is to erase all data from the computer before sending it off for recycling.
However, this should be a factor regardless of what one does with an old computer because electronic data can be retrieved from hard drives. There are many options (such as software) to ensure that the data is permanently erased.
In fact, many recycling firms will scrub the hard drive and certify that all data has been erased. Before sending your computer to a recycler, check to verify that this option is available.
Manufacturer Specific Programs
Toshiba Trade-In and Recycling Program
Lenovo/IBM (will also accept other e-waste of other computer manufacturers)
Circuit City (Easy-trade in program)
Staples (accepts computers, monitors, laptops, and desktop printers, faxes and all-in-ones)
EPA Plug-In Partners (lists manufacturers, retailers and service providers that offer recycling of e-waste)
EPA–lists options for donating or recycling e-waste
Techsoup–lists non-profit organizations and recyclers of e-waste
Goodwill (some locations accept computers)–website includes tips on how to donate computers
Cell Phone Recycling/Donation
Motorola (accepts all brands for free)
Nokia (accepts all brands for free)
Call to Recycle
National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (donation of cell phones)
Call to Protect
Verizon Wireless (accepts phones at Verizon stores)
AT&T Wireless (accepts phones at AT&T stores)
T-Mobile Wireless (accepts phones in stores and by mail)
Sprint Wireless (accepts phones in stores and by mail; recycling proceeds go to charity)
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