The Nitty Gritty on e-Cycling: Buy-Back, Take-Back, and Recycling Programs


Photo via takomabibelot via Flickr CC

Recycling is the obvious solution for broken down electronics. However, recycling has its pitfalls to be avoided. The major concern is where your electronics actually end up. There is a growing awareness about e-waste dumps, which is when recyclers ship electronics overseas to developing countries that have no laws or regulations that account for the health and safety of the people dismantling the electronics. When recyclers don't have a way to show their accountability, your electronics might very well end up doing a whole lot of damage to the environment and people, all when you thought you were doing the right thing.

So you need to find a resonsible recycler, and luckily there are organizations out there that help you, primarily e-Stewards, that help you find organizations such as Green Citizen who track their electronics all the way through the recycling stream and take accountability seriously.

Great Resources for Electronics Recycling
Basil Action Network
TIA e-Cycling Central
Consumer Electronics Recycling
US Postal Service

When trying to find a responsible recycler - either those that accept items for free, such as Reconnect, or that charrges a fee, such as Zip Express - the Consumer Reports has gathered three great questions to ask to help you determine if the recycler is trustworthy:

Q1. Which state or local electronics disposal laws do you comply with? [Acceptable answer would be that they comply with state and local electronics disposal regulations; to find out about E-waste legislation in your area, visit the US Environmental Protection Agency's e-cycling map (scroll down to see state listings)].

Q2. Do you send any electronic waste overseas? If so, where? [Acceptable answer would be that if they do send it overseas, they send it to developed countries including those in the European Union, and to facilities with environmental management systems in place.]

Q3. Where do you send your hazardous waste? [Acceptable answer would be that they send it to a facility that specializes in hazardous waste.]
-More specifically, where do you send your high value circuit boards (those that contain precious metals found in computer processors)? [Acceptable answer would be that circuit boards are sent to a facility that recovers metals or repairs boards.]
-Where do you send your low-value circuit boards (those that contain little or no precious metals found in monitors and TVs)? [Acceptable answer would be that these circuit boards are sent to a facility that repairs boards or disposes of them in an environmentally responsible way.]

Recycling is not always free. Often there's a fee you have to pay to properly dispose of an item. That's a deterrent for many people, which leads to electronics being left at curbside, rather than put in the recycling stream. However, there are often local events and free e-cycling days, as well as free drop off locations. Check out your city's and state's government website to see about recycling options available to you. Also, be sure to read up on electronics recycling so that you know your options:
Consumer Guides for E-Cycling After the Holiday
How do e-waste recycling laws work?
What happens to your discarded old computer?
Where can I recycle my old electronics?

Tags: Activism | Education | E-Waste | Recycling


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