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How to Recycle Electronics

written by: Jennifer Claerr•edited by: Niki Fears•updated: 11/19/2010

The improper disposal of electronics is causing a serious worldwide problem. Discarded electronic waste or e-waste releases toxins and can pose a risk of electric shock. Recycling or donating your unwanted electronic devices is the best way to solve this problem.

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    Why You Should Recycle Your Electronic Devices

    Many people seem to think that they can just throw electronic devices in the trash when they're done using them. This is not only environmentally unsound but is actually illegal in some areas. This is because electronics sometimes contain components or substances that are toxic or potentially dangerous. The buildup of discarded electronic waste or e-waste has become a serious problem in many parts of the world. The best way to dispose of unwanted electronic devices such as computers, computer peripherals, televisions, VCRs, and cell phones is to recycle them. Fortunately, there are several different ways to recycle electronics. Many of them are free. In some cases, you may have to pay a fee to recycle your discarded electronic devices.

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    Recycle Electronics by Donating Them to Charity

    If your electronic devices still have some life left in them, you can donate them to a charitable organization to be reused. Check with your local Goodwill or Salvation Army to see if they accept electronics. If you have a computer you need to dispose of, check the World Computer Exchange to see if your computer meets their needs. If it does, your computer could be reused by a university, library, school or orphanage. If you donate your old electronics, you'll be doing good for others and you may be able to get a deduction on your next tax return.

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    Find an Electronics Recycler

    Many businesses will accept electronics for recycling. Office stores such as Office Depot and Staples may also recycle many electronic devices, including cell phones and printer cartridges. There may even be financial incentives such as free merchandise or discounts in exchange for the recyclables. In many instances, you can send your unwanted electronic devices back to the manufacturer to be recycled. If these companies can't recycle your electronics, you can check the EPA website for electronics recyclers in your area. Just click on the part of the map where you live to find a link to your local ewaste recycler.

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    How to Reuse Electronics in Your Home

    If you're technically inclined, you may be able to reuse your electronic devices. If you have a computer with a bad or missing part, you can use parts from an old computer to repair it. Also, old computer peripherals such as monitors, printers and scanners may be reused with a new computer. You can take parts out of devices such as DVD players, VCRs and televisions to repair a similar device. It's a good idea to get a book on repair techniques and safety before you get started. Remember that devices such as computer monitors and power supplies and televisions can be dangerous when opened. Always educate yourself and take proper precautions before attempting repair on any electronic device.

    Whatever you do, never put your electronic devices out to the curb. At the very least, you could probably find someone on a website such as Craigslist or Freecycle who is willing to take your electronics for free. Always consider your own safety, the safety of others and the welfare of the planet before you dispose of your unwanted electronics.

    Sources:

    "eCycling." http://www.epa.gov/waste/conserve/materials/ecycling/index.htm

    "Where Can I Donate or Recycle My Old Computer and Other Electronic Products?" http://www.epa.gov/osw/conserve/materials/ecycling/donate.htm

    Solly Granatstein, "Following The Trail Of Toxic E-Waste." http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2008/11/06/60minutes/main4579229.shtml