How to Recycle Old Electronics
We love our devices—our TVs, laptops, tablets, and perhaps most of all, our mobile phones, those pocket-sized miracles of computing power. In fact, Gartner, a tech research company, estimates that more than 1.5 billion cell phones will ship in 2021. That’s around 1 for every 5 people alive.
But unless they’re traded in for a new device, each of those gadgets eventually reaches the end of its useful life and becomes electronic waste. And that’s a problem. A United Nations study reported that 53.6 million tons of e-waste was discarded in 2019, and only 17.4 percent of it was disposed of properly.
On Earth Day (April 22)—and every other day—consumers can do something to reduce their e-waste footprint, though. Many of the materials used in making these products can be recovered and reused, including plastics, glass, metal, and aluminum. Apple, for example, says its 13-inch MacBook Air with Retina display contains over 40 percent recycled content (PDF).
But electronics can also contain toxic substances such as lead, mercury, and cadmium, which must be disposed of carefully. So far, 25 states have passed laws requiring people to recycle old electronics. But no matter where you live, there are safe methods for disposal.
First, make sure to completely erase all personal information. It usually isn’t as simple as deleting files. Here’s how to get your personal data off a laptop, for example. Once that’s done, here are your options.
Plenty of nonprofit organizations and local communities offer options to help you recycle old electronics. One group, Call2Recycle, offers drop-off locations for rechargeable batteries and cell phones all over the U.S. To find a location, just enter your ZIP code at Call2Recycle.org.
Access may be limited due to concerns about COVID-19, so before leaving home, be sure to contact the drop-off location to confirm it’s open and accepting recyclables.
You can also look for local options by entering your ZIP code and the product you want to recycle at the Computer Technology Association’s Recycle Locator or Earth911’s extensive recycling database. Earth911 offers assistance by phone at 800-CLEANUP, too.
For more options, or to learn how e-waste gets recycled, consult Sustainable Electronics Recycling International, which lists facilities certified for electronic recycling.
If your used gadget still works—or, in many cases, even if it doesn’t—there’s probably a charity or nonprofit out there that would be happy to take it off your hands. You can start by checking local organizations for older people and recreation centers. Make sure to get a receipt so that you can deduct your donation on next year’s tax return. Here are a few other programs that can help you get your old devices to people who need them.
- Dell Reconnect is a partnership with Goodwill that accepts any brand of computer as well as “just about anything that can be connected to a computer,” according to the website. You can drop off used devices at participating Goodwill locations around the country.
- The World Computer Exchange is on a mission to diminish the digital divide in developing countries and to promote the reuse of and proper recycling of electronics. It provides used computers, peripherals, and many other types of gadgets to communities around the world.
- eBay for Charity lets you sell your used devices (or anything else, actually) and donate part or all of the proceeds to a charity of your choosing.
Many electronics manufacturers and retailers offer robust recycling programs. A chart at the Environmental Protection Agency’s website lets you search programs by product or company. The following are just a few of the many programs that allow consumers to recycle old electronics. Check your brand’s or retailer’s company website for details on its program.
- Amazon offers gift cards for just about any kind of electronics device, as well as music CDs and video games. Some items may be eligible for limited time, promotional credit toward a new qualifying Amazon device.
- Apple’s GiveBack program offers up to $1,530 in gift cards or in-store credit for qualifying products. The company will also accept and recycle any product that doesn’t qualify.
- Best Buy offers recycling options for a wide range of electronics, no matter where you bought them.
- Office Depot and Staples offer rewards program members store credit of $2 per printer cartridge (with some restrictions) for up to 10 or 20 cartridges per month, respectively. Most printer manufacturers, including HP, Epson, and Canon, also have their own recycling programs.
- Sprint’s Buyback program offers account credits for mobile phones from any carrier. For specific details on other phone programs, check the manufacturer’s website.
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We love our planet, right? Then let’s stop trashing it. On the “Consumer 101” TV show, Consumer Reports reveals the five items you should always recycle rather than toss into the trash bin.
Electronics recyclers from King County’s Take it Back Network
Electronics recyclers from King County’s Take it Back Network – King County
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Take it Back Network
Take it Back Network recyclers accept a variety of electronic equipment such as computers, monitors, printers, TVs, cell phones, PDAs, fax machines, audio video and camera equipment (including DVD and VCR players), household electronics and rechargeable batteries.
Residents can recycle their computers, monitors, laptops and TVs for FREE at authorized E-Cycle Washington collection sites. Visit www.ecyclewashington.org external link to find a collection site near you. Many of the Take it Back Network members are participating in E-Cycle Washington and will accept computers, monitors, laptops and TVs for free. They will also continue to accept electronic products not included in the E-Cycle Washington program for a fee – such as printers, mice, keyboards, fax machines, scanners, batteries, etc.
logo designates authorized E-Cycle Washington collectors.
Download the electronics recycling brochureDownload PDF 300 K
Be sure to read the vendor descriptions and call first to verify that they will accept your equipment. Some vendors accept items by appointment only.
Most Take it Back organizations charge a fee to cover the cost of labor to take apart the equipment and to transport the materials to a processing facility. Read the detailed description of their services and the fees by clicking on the name of the vendor. The fees change frequently so call first to verify the cost of the recycling service.
Environmentally sound recycling
The organizations listed in the local Take it Back Network have agreed to recycle the materials in an environmentally sound manner, either domestically, within nations that belong to the European Union (EU) or within countries that are members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) external link . Learn more about the membership requirements to join the Take it Back Network.
Other recycling companies
For a list of electronics recyclers that are not in the Take it Back Network, go to the What Do I Do With…? website and select “Electronic Equipment” from the drop-down menu.
Note that the businesses and organizations that are not Take it Back Network members have not agreed to the Take it Back Network membership requirements and may export their equipment to countries that have less stringent environmental regulations. Before you pay a fee to have your materials processed, be sure to ask the recycler for documentation about where and how the materials are recycled to ensure the materials are being handled properly.
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- Last Updated January 29, 2018
Why only 10-20 percent of e-waste is recycled
900 02 Murmansk region
Aleksey Mikhailov (Murmansk Region)
By the end of 2022, the situation on the electronic equipment recycling market in Russia has changed significantly: citizens are trying to disassemble broken devices and sell electronic components removed from them. According to the association “SKO Electronics – Recycling”, over the past six months, about 20 percent of devices began to come for recycling already without electronic boards. This suggests that the population has become more active in selling faulty electronics through ads, and some enterprises are reusing electronic components due to a shortage of foreign components. At the same time, the sanctions significantly squeezed this market – most of the electronic components assembled by buyers were sold for processing to Europe and China. In this situation, there was an urgent need to expand the processing of end-of-life electronics in Russia.
Waste electronic and electrical equipment (WEEE) is the fastest growing share of municipal solid waste. According to the regional monitoring of e-waste for 2021, prepared by experts from the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), the amount of e-waste generated in Russia and the CIS increased from 1.7 million tons (about six kilograms per capita) in 2010 to 2. 5 million tons (8.7 kilograms per capita) in 2019. Only 10-20 percent of this volume is recycled, the rest goes to landfills, causing great harm to the environment. Although WEEE makes up only five to seven percent of all MSW, it accounts for 70 percent of all toxic substances in municipal solid waste. Up to 70 percent of all e-waste is generated by the public.
At least 60-70 percent of the electronic scrap collection business remains shady, says Alexandra Dyatkova, marketing director for the Uberi ecotaxi. Most of this waste is handed over to “gray” collectors, who take faulty equipment somewhere to garages or industrial zones, where the most valuable components are manually extracted from it. Not a single region has established a centralized collection of WEEE, this is done only by individual enterprises, many of which operate illegally. In particular, in the Republic of Komi, the volumes of electronic waste are insufficient to create a centralized system for their processing and disposal, said Alexandras Medvedevas, chairman of the committee of the Republican Chamber of Commerce and Industry on ecology, environmental management and the treatment of solid municipal and industrial waste. The same situation is in the Murmansk region.
– We do not separate them from the incoming volume of waste, – says Vitaly Izmailov, deputy director of the Murmansk branch of Citimatic JSC, which is a municipal waste management operator. – What comes to us goes like scrap metal. Ideally, enterprises should hand over non-ferrous metals, microcircuits and other similar waste to special institutions, which then should deal with their disposal. But in reality, this work is not established. I myself have come across this: at one time I worked as a computer science teacher at school, and recycling failed computers has always been a huge problem. Electronic scrap is accepted only by small private traders who disassemble it for spare parts.
The overwhelming majority of the population in the regions has not yet realized that it is impossible to dispose of hazardous waste in this way, notes Alexandra Dyatkova. As a rule, such “collectors” do not have a license for such activities. In addition, they do not care at all about protecting nature from pollution. Containers with freon from refrigerators, for example, at best end up on a container site for a recycler for the treatment of MSW, and at worst – to illegal dumps. In contrast, responsible companies take waste to recycling plants, where there is special equipment that allows you to pump out hazardous liquids, recycle plastic, wires, printed circuit boards, metal boxes, and so on. They work with a number of plants that allow them to recycle and recycle an average of 88 percent of the waste they receive.
– Before handing over e-waste to private collectors, you need to ask where they will then be sent, – adds the expert. – Only such handling of electronic waste can be called responsible.
Establishment of WEEE processing facilities is an extremely capital-intensive process, Ecopolis Corporation notes. Today, at the federal level, there are no support measures for e-waste processors. The development and launch of federal, regional and municipal programs for the centralized collection of WEEE from the population will help change the situation. It is also necessary to subsidize interest rates on investment loans for industry companies, to compensate for part of the costs of purchasing equipment and logistics costs associated with the transportation of waste from the place of collection and accumulation to recycling enterprises.
Before handing over e-waste to private collectors, you need to ask where they will be sent
Another problem that needs to be addressed at the state level is that Russian manufacturers are not interested in using secondary resources. For processors, this reduces the market for their products. Although recycled materials are cheaper than primary ones, industrialists need research and technology changes to switch to recycled materials. This can divert a significant part of the resource of small enterprises, so here you can not do without the economic support of the state. And big business needs a clear signal from the authorities that the use of recycled materials is one of the priorities.
Rossiyskaya gazeta – Economics of the North-West: №269(8917)
48 In 2021, the world produced a record number of electronic waste, comparable to the weight of the Great Wall of China – 57.4 million tons. Each ton of such garbage leads to the release of two tons of carbon dioxide and pollutes the environment with toxic substances. Plus-one.ru figured out whether electronic devices can be environmentally friendly and how to dispose of them without harm to nature.
ElectroAutumn, an action to collect equipment for recycling in Moscow
Photo: Mikhail Tereshchenko / TASS
Ecotechnics are devices whose production and operation have a minimal impact on the environment. For example, the American company HARMAN has released InfinityLab portable chargers, which are 90% recycled plastic.
It is impossible to sell equipment without packaging due to the risk of damage, but many companies are trying to minimize the impact of boxes, bags and other containers on the planet. This is achieved in several ways:
use of recycled materials: recycled plastic, waste paper, wood waste
ease of disposal or reuse (for example, Samsung TV boxes can be easily turned into a cat house, shelf or coffee table)
compact — to reduce resource consumption and greenhouse gas emissions
using organic ink (such as soy) for label printing
Another way to make your appliances more environmentally friendly is to make them more energy efficient. Appliances that consume the least amount of electricity are labeled A +++. They protect not only the resources of the planet, but also the family budget, because the cost of electricity is constantly growing.
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Other, less obvious for the consumer, ways of greening technology:
Reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The problem is that most of the equipment is assembled at third-party factories, for example, in China. It is difficult to assess the impact of these factories and product transportation on the environment. Nevertheless, manufacturing companies are trying to do this, as high levels of environmental pollution can affect their reputation.
Participation in the promotion of an environmentally friendly lifestyle. For example, a company may offer customers to turn in old equipment in exchange for a discount. At the same time, the performance of the device, as well as its brand, do not matter.
Reduction of work flights for employees. This is achieved by holding online meetings, refusing to participate in exhibitions, and canceling business trips. The alternative is our own online presentations of new products.
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Now companies that it allows to save money are more interested in purchasing environmentally friendly equipment than ordinary consumers. The reason is a lack of awareness. Many buyers do not know what criteria green appliances must meet. It is widely believed that eco-friendly products differ from ordinary ones only in design and must necessarily be “natural” shades.
To make it easier for people to make the right choices when buying and disposing of electronic devices, the importance of saving resources and reducing waste needs to be talked about more often. In addition, the process of handing over equipment for recycling should be as simple as collecting batteries.
Photo: Lya_Cattel / iStock
E-waste contains substances that are dangerous to all living things, including mercury, cadmium, lead, freon. They enter the environment and poison the soil, water bodies, and air. According to the 2020 Global E-Waste Monitor, mercury pollution alone is about 50 tons per year. Plastic is also dangerous – it breaks down into tiny particles with toxic impurities. They enter the food chain: first, microplastics are swallowed by fish, birds, and other animals, and then by humans.
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In addition, broken equipment can be useful. Many parts can be reused or melted down to reduce the amount of raw materials to be mined. So, in 2019, thanks to the recycling of iron parts from electrical engineering, it was possible to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 15 million tons, and recycled materials were estimated at $10 billion. These figures can be much higher – according to the UN, humanity recycles only 15% of electronic waste. And computers, monitors and other equipment contain precious metals. For example, from 250 to 450 g of gold is extracted from one ton of electronic waste.
The main condition for the recycling of electronics is its separate collection. Appliances that end up in a landfill get rusty and dirty, making their disposal impossible.
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There are e-waste organizations in all major cities. You can find them on the +1City map or on the SKO Electronics – Recycling website. The equipment is accepted by DNS, M.Video, Tele2 (smartphones can be returned), Eldorado and other retail chains. Muscovites can use the free service “Removal of old things”. It is enough to fill out an online application on the mos.ru website, and at the appointed time, the old equipment will be picked up and sent for recycling.
If the devices can still be used, place an advertisement for their sale on Avito or Yulia. So you will not only get rid of junk, but also help other people. If you wish, you can sell individual parts, such as a computer keyboard, and hand over the rest for recycling.
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Step-by-step instructions for those who want to get rid of excess
Keep in mind that organizations must report on the disposal of electronics, which is listed on their balance sheet. Company representatives need:
Select a company to send electronics for recycling. The organization must be certified by the Assay Chamber of the Russian Federation.
Draw up an instrument write-off report.
Agree on the cost of services, sign the contract.
After the removal of the equipment, sign an act on the completion of work.
It is enough for individual entrepreneurs, as well as individuals, to take care of the proper disposal of household appliances and electronics.
Equipment that arrived at the enterprise is sorted:
Devices with kinescopes (cathode ray tubes needed to reproduce images on a monitor) contain lead and barium, so they are processed separately. The equipment is cut, cleaned of phosphor (a powdered substance that converts energy into light), and then sent to a hazardous waste disposal facility.
Old gadgets of small size enter the conveyor, where they are manually dismantled into parts. The task is to separate glass, plastic, metal and wires. These materials are loaded into different shredders (shredders).
Large equipment is shredded without prior disassembly into parts. The only thing: before loading into the shredder, freon is pumped out of it.
Batteries and accumulators are separated at the stage of equipment disassembly and sent to a special enterprise.
The next step in recycling is the separation of plastic particles and various types of metals. Separators are used for this purpose: from the simplest ones with magnets to high-tech ones, with chambers and induction sensors. Plastic is further divided by density.