How to Reuse and Recycle E-Waste

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The Trouble with E-Waste

The term e-waste is used to describe any electric or electronic devices or parts that have been discarded. E-waste is a huge problem, both in the United States and in other countries. Discarded e-waste such as electronics are dangerous, primarily because of the toxic substances they contain. Many people simply dump their e-waste items in a landfill without attempting to recycle them. Even when responsible people try to recycle their e-waste, the recycler may illegally ship the e-waste overseas to countries like Africa or China for cheap processing. E-waste is one of the fastest growing types of waste today. According to Pike Research, the tide of e-waste going into landfills is expected to continue to increase until 2015. Then it should level off and eventually decline due to government regulations and better availability of e-waste recycling options.

Computer E-Waste

Computer e-waste items include discarded computer towers, monitors and notebook computers, computer keyboards, mice, printers, scanners and other peripheral devices. Also, any internal device that you replace or upgrade, such as a CD or DVD drive, graphics card, sound card, hard drive or modem, constitutes e-waste if it’s discarded. CRT computer monitors contain lead, so you can’t just throw them away when you upgrade to an LCD flat panel monitor. You can recycle certain computers and computer components in working condition by donating them to companies such as Goodwill and the Salvation Army. Some computer manufacturers offer recycling, buy back or take back programs for your unwanted computer or computer parts and peripherals.

Cell Phone E-Waste

Most people replace their cell phone about every 18 months, creating a tremendous number of unnecessary e-waste items. In all, about 100 million cellular phones are thrown away every year. Cell phones are typically coated with lead. They usually contain Ni-Cd batteries which contain nickel and cadmium. Cadmium is a chemical that’s known to cause lung, kidney and liver damage as well as cancer in humans. Cell phones can be easily recycled at many locations. Companies such as AT&T, Best Buy and Staples will allow you to drop off your unwanted cell phone for recycling. Nokia, Sprint, T-Mobile, Motorola and other companies have mail-in recycling programs.

Television E-Waste

The switch to digital television in the United States has caused many people to dispose of their analog CRT television sets in favor of a digital, flat panel television. Televisions are often placed at the curb or in the landfill, where they pose a significant hazard. Like CRT computer monitors, CRT televisions contain large amounts of lead, often up to 8 pounds. Analog televisions can easily be reused or recycled. You only need a DTV converter box to use your old analog television to view digital television broadcasts. Analog televisions are also still good to receive analog cable and satellite television broadcasts. You can reuse your analog television for gaming or watching movies or TV on VHS or DVD. You can reuse an analog TV by handing it down to your kids. If you decide that you absolutely can’t reuse your working analog television, you can donate it to your favorite charity. If all else fails, check out a website such as or for an electronics recycler near you.

For more information, read How to Recycle Electronics and How to Recycle an Old Analog Television Set.


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