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Reducing eWaste

Based on recent EPA estimates, over one billion cell phones are sitting around houses nationwide, unused.  Most will probably be thrown in the trash and end up in landfills, instead of being reused or recycled.

Back in May, the United Nations Environment Programme put out a report on recycling metals.   It concluded that less than one-third of 60 metals studied have an  end-of-life recycling rate above 50% and 34 are under 1%.  The UN recommended boost waste management in developing economies and cease keeping old cell phones and other antiquated electronics lying around the house.   Read the report here.

If you're like me, you have lots of old-but-working or repairable electronics sitting around your home.  I have a closet which serves as what I call “the electronics graveyard.”  I have old computers, cell phones, and MP3 players just catching dust because I never knew what to do with them.  I have now come to realize that there are different (green) options for giving old electronics a second life or recycling them.

The EPA website offers some options for turning in your cell phone.   Earth911 has a searchable database where you can look for locations near you that recycle electronics.    (I just learned that the recycling center a mile and a half from my house does, indeed, take electronics!)  

Our friends over at All Green Electronics Recycling has some excellent resources for recycling your electronics.  They have drop off locations, do pickups, and they have a blog dedicated to eWaste.  

Additionally, some charities will take your old cell phones.  There is also Cell Phones for Soldiers and Cell Phones for Life which donates cell phones to battered women and the elderly.

Other options are getting cash for your old electronics.  I recently had a chance to talk to the folks over at uSell.  uSells buys old electronics and pays the seller cash.  They refurbish the item, fixes screen scratches, and erases data so there are no privacy or security issues, making it a safer option than, say, craigslist.  You can buy your kid a refurbed iTouch without having to pay full price or worry about ending up with the previous owner’s data.  

Alexandra Duffy, uSell’s Director of Public Relations, explains:  “uSell keps ewaste out of landfills because there’s a market for people who don’t need the latest technology.”

Doug Fierstein, CEO of uSell adds, “Most consumers don’t realize the inherent value in their used electronics but according the U.S. Geological Survey, more gold could be extracted from a metric ton of used circuit boards than could be extracted from 17 metric tons of gold ore. We encourage consumers to pull their old cell phones out of the drawer and either trade them in for cash or, at the very least, recycle them responsibly. After all, electronic waste is the fastest growing waste stream in the U.S. and only 10 percent of cell phones are currently being recycled.”

No excuses for my electronics graveyard anymore.  I can recycle the broken ones, donate cell phones to those who need them, or even make a little bit of cash while keeping my functional electronics out of the landfill.