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One of the biggest concerns regarding discarding electronics, or e-waste, is the environmental damage caused by improper disposal. Electronic waste is the fastest growing form of toxic waste world-wide due to how fast technology is advancing and how dependant mankind is upon them. Most electronics contain some levels of potentially toxic chemicals such as mercury, lead, chromium, and cadmium. Some electronics may also contain chemical flame retardants and heavy metals such as polybrominated diphenyl ethers or PBDEs. These toxic chemicals  and metals pollute groundwater, air, and surface water if the electronic is improperly disposed of, dumped or burned. If the electronics are buried in the landfill the pollutants can get into the soil and water. These substances have been shown to cause numerous health concerns in people and animals including cancer, developmental problems, brain damage, endocrine disruptions, and damage to the nervous system, which is why it is so important to dispose of your electronics properly. Keeping e-waste from the landfills prevents the health risks to the public through leachate (leaching contaminates) into the land and spreading air emissions.  

Discarding e-waste in landfills has been banned in most states. The reason is because some electronics contain valuable and reusable components that is lost when tossed in the landfill or incinerated.

Before you rush off to the drop-off centre, take stock of the electronic waste that you want to discard. Do your electronics still work? If your computer, monitor, cell-phone, etcetera is still in working order why not consider donating it to a school or organization. Or look for an organization in your area that accepts unwanted yet functional electronic items. These organizations will match donated electronics with companies or other organizations in need of them. Of course, if your electronic items are in
non-working order and the cost of the repair out weighs the worth of the item, recycling is the next step. The estimate from the EPA is that 100 million pounds of material from electronics is recycled each year.

Electronics recycling centres are available in most cities, since recycling your electronics is the only legal way of disposing them. These centres sort the electronics in various categories such as pc’s, monitors, printers, etc. If the items are considered low-end they will, most likely, not be tested, but rather stripped and disposed of. Newer items may be tested and if found to be working, all data (for computers, cell phones, and any other item with a memory) will be removed as this is often overlooked by both companies and individuals, so this is an important step in the decommissioning process. The items are then valued and the appropriate market value is set based on the assets that are resalable. Recycling centres also have technicians on staff who are trained to diagnose problems with the electronic items and perform those repairs (if found to be cost efficient) again, for the purpose of resale. Electronic recycling centres will deem the item obsolete if the value of the item is so low that donation, resale, or, as some centres offer, employee buy-back options, are unappealing. If this is the case, the disposal or recycling of the items will be coordinated in accordance with both state and federal rules and regulations.   

If your city does not offer an e-waste recycling centre then you will have to look for other resources. Contact the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) for a list of local programs that offer information on where you can recycle your e-waste. If there is still nothing for your area, you can try contacting the manufacturer of your electronic item to see if the company offers a mail-in or trade-in program, or offers a take-back. Some of the larger chain stores also have drop-off boxes which gives you the option of dropping off your electronic at the store for recycling.

If you are still unable to find an option for e-waste recycling in your area you may have to look for a company that offers professional disposal and recycling for your e-waste. For larger items that require heavy lifting this may be the best option and you may have to pay a fee since they will be coming to you for pick-up.

Due to the environmental factor in the improper disposal of e-waste, recycling programs are being set in place to make it easier for the consumer to dispose of their unwanted electronics. A few phone calls may be all it takes to find an electronic recycling centre near you, which keeps the e-waste from ending up where it’s not supposed to be, in the landfills.     

Contributor / Editor - Matt Kennedy - Refer questions to info@wastecare.com

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