The E-Waste Crisis & How You Can Help

What do you do when your microwave, toaster, fax machine, or computer stop working?

Or when you buy a newer, sharper TV to replace that old one that still works perfectly fine?

In today’s society, we spend our hard earned money on electronics but as soon as they malfunction or we upgrade, they're we throw in the garbage with no hesitation. It’s wasteful and it’s polluting the planet in ways you may not be aware of. Electronic products are made of metals, glass, plastics, toxins and more - landfills are not the right place for them.

What Is Considered E-waste?

Electronic waste is any unwanted, broken or obsolete technology. This ranges from wires such as phone chargers, phones, monitors, batteries, PCs, laptops, TVs, scanners, keyboards, fax machines, stereos, VCR's, DVD players, headphones and more.

What's The Problem?

The problem is that, "20 to 50 million metric tons of e-waste are disposed worldwide every year" and "e-waste represents 2% of America's trash in landfills, but it equals 70% of overall toxic waste”. This is according to a 2012 study, so imagine how much worse it is today.

Electronic products contain highly toxic elements. These toxins range from lead, arsenic to mercury and more. When e-waste is not recycled, it pollutes landfills and the toxins release into the soil which eventually leads to local water streams, rivers and lakes, harming wildlife and worse us.

Products used to be made to last and now it seems they are made to fail within 5 years of purchasing them so you are forced to buy it again sooner. We need to put more effort into making the products we already have to last longer. We can do so by having maintenance done often to machines or purchasing warranties, investing like this into an appliance will always be cheaper than buying a new one.

We need more e-waste repair jobs. It is not breaking news that skilled trade jobs have been declining over the past two decades or so in the U.S. The influence on my generation has always been 'go to college, get a degree', and trade jobs have been forgotten. Forbes predicts that finding a good skilled-trades worker will continue to get harder as a study done in 2012 showed that over 50% of skilled trades workers were over the age of 45. explains how, "cell phones and other electronic items contain high amounts of precious metals like gold or silver. Americans dump phones containing over $60 million in gold/silver every year". Also, explains that the "average American keeps a phone for about 18 months". We have become a society that only knows how to consume and consume without regarding the effect it has on the Earth. Give old or used phones to younger family members or acquaintances if you are not returning it to your cell phone carrier or selling it, do not throw it away! If it is broken there are correct ways to dispose of it.

The Solution

Your first option should always be to repair the damaged electronic. Get your money’s worth! Sometimes it can be a simple, inexpensive fix. Even if you do not want to keep it, by repairing it you will then have the option to sell it or give it away to someone in need- you know the saying, ‘one man’s (or woman’s) garbage is another man's treasure’. There are so many apps and ways of getting rid of your junk nowadays like the app ‘letgo’ or the Facebook marketplace.

Your second option and last resort is to recycle your electronics. This option conserves natural resources and it reduces the e-waste that is currently overwhelming landfills. Electronic recycling is the process of deconstructing electronic devices to extract materials that can be used again for other products. It is a proper disposal system of electronics.

“Fixing and reusing what we’ve already got just makes sense. Recycling should come only after we’ve gotten every but of use out of a product.”

So How/Where Can You Recycle E-waste?

So after you've gotten every bit of life out of your electronic, it's super easy to find where you can correctly dispose of it. Google typically has all the answers you need by simply typing in, "where can I recycle e-waste in _____ (your area)?"

For my fellow NJ residents click here, find your county and see where your nearest center is, then check what your county’s recycling guidelines are. Some municipalities will actually come and pick up old refrigerators and larger items if you schedule it with them and in rare cases they may even give you money for it, depending on where you live and what they offer of course.

Another option is taking your e-waste to a Staples, Best Buy, or even Target. They each have ‘recycling kiosks’ right by the front doors where you can recycle rechargeable batteries, wires, cords, cables and plastic bags (click on the links to see exactly what each store accepts). To recycle large items like a stove top, microwave or TV, check out their websites with the links above or speak to an employee.

Don’t B E-Wasteful

Next time one of your electronics break, get it repaired and as the last resort, recycle it. Do not throw e-waste away with regular garbage. Take a little time out of your schedule and do the right thing by going to your nearest recycling center or store.

Be green and do what is right, not what is easy.

To see what other stores recycle e-waste, click here.

Let me know if the comments, what do you usually do with old electronics? Will you start recycling?

Follow us on Instagram @thegreendreamblog