Old electronics can pile up fast. With so many different types of tech available on the market these days, it’s easy to have a drawer absolutely stuffed with discarded phones, old chargers, and forgotten flash drives – or even a bin in the garage with an old computer, broken monitors, and a TV you’ve been meaning to get rid of.
- The problem: e-waste
There’s no denying it: Americans produce a lot of electronic waste, or e-waste.
Did you know, however, that this buildup of e-waste isn’t just a nuisance for your spring-cleaning schedule? It’s actually environmentally disastrous. Our hunger for ever-newer, ever-sleeker tech has a huge toll on the earth. Most electronics require rare metals that must be mined from environmentally sensitive places.
In addition to this, once an electronic is thrown out, it can be an environmental hazard, filled with lead, mercury, and other chemicals that can leech into soil and damage ecosystems.
With our addiction to electronics causing such terrible environmental hazards and damaging vulnerable ecosystems, you might wonder what you can do to help. Consider these options when purchasing new electronics or disposing of old ones, and do your part to preserve the earth we all rely on.
- Solution: responsibly recycle e-waste
It may be tempting to toss that old computer monitor in the trash can to simply be picked up on garbage day, but you should think twice before you take the easy road. Remember that it will take centuries for the electronic device to decompose in a landfill and could damage the soil with lead leakage.
There are plenty of ways to recycle your old computers and other electronics if you do some research about it out. But be careful: it’s not as easy as tossing your used laptop in the recycling bin once you’re done with it. You have a few options when it comes to recycling your e-waste:
- Vendor trade-ins: some vendors will take your old electronics for a trade-in when you’ve decided to upgrade. Not only does this save you money, it also helps the environment by keeping that old electronic out of a landfill.
- Donations: see if any charities in your area are accepting electronics donations. Plenty of folks in the developing world and in struggling communities at home need computers and phones but can’t afford new ones, so charities exist that help connect them with someone’s old electronic. See if any local charities are doing an electronic drive, and help both the environment and people in need!
- Find a responsible recycling center: unfortunately, some places claiming to offer electronics recycling simply ship electronics off to developing countries to be processed there under dangerous working conditions. Be sure you know what your local recycling center plans on doing with the electronics they take off your hands before you feel confident in handing it over.
Recycling your e-waste is a great start when it comes to responsibly handling old electronics, but what else can you do?
- Solution: skip that upgrade
The e-waste environmental crisis is caused by people’s insatiable lust for new electronics. Many times, people choose to upgrade from their old model before it even stops working. If you’re concerned with the amount of e-waste in the world and want to do your part, the next time that new generation of smartphone or laptop comes out, just skip the upgrade.
Most of the time, software updates will keep your current electronics up and running without any issue, so there’s no real need to take advantage of every new tech toy out on the market.
- Solution: buy refurbished
Another great solution that’s both environmentally and budget-friendly is to buy refurbished electronics. Because so many people opt for that brand-new upgrade every time it comes out, there are tons of only one- or two-year-old electronics available from licensed refurbishes. Refurbished electronics can be every bit as good as the new model, at a fraction of the cost. Consider refurbished models for:
- Desktops and monitors
- High-end accessories, like speakers and ergonomic keyboards
There are tons of great options online for refurbished electronics. All it takes is the willingness not to have the shiniest and best!
We all have a small part to play in reducing the amount of electronic waste damaging the environment. If you’re concerned with doing what you can, consider implementing these solutions in your life today.