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Electronic waste (also called e-waste) is a huge problem. In 2021, Bloomberg reported that an estimated 74 million tons of e-waste a year will be produced worldwide by 2030. Instead of perpetuating this crisis, it’s more important than ever that we become aware of how to recycle electronics.
Although e-waste is a catch-all term for used electronics that are landfilled or improperly discarded, there is also “inherent value of these materials that can be reused, refurbished, or recycled to minimize the actual waste,” according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Meaning, for every old tech gadget that goes in the garbage, heavy metals and chemical components from those devices (and their batteries) that could be repurposed elsewhere are wasted, threatening human health and the environment by potentially leaching into the soil and water.
It’s up to each of us to repurpose, responsibly recycle, or safely dispose of our old electronics. If correctly processed, the metals and materials that comprise these gadgets can be reintegrated into new products, even making their way into innovative new uses like clothing insulation.
Because electronics have to be recycled in a specific way (i.e., not thrown into your recycling bin with your papers, plastics, and metal cans), this process can seem daunting if you’re not aware of your state regulations. However, once you know how to recycle electronics or where you can drop them off for proper disposal, it’s easier to repeat this moving forward.
Find a New Home for Your Old Tech
The first step to understanding how to recycle electronics is to assess all of the stuff that you want to get rid of. If your old electronics are still in working condition, the best and eco-friendliest option is to give the item a second life by donating it. (If it doesn’t work, more on that later.)
For example, Free Geek, based in Portland, Oregon, is a nonprofit organization that accepts various kinds of unwanted electronics, refurbishes them, and finds them new homes around the local community. Students, young adults, and others who can’t afford or don’t have access to updated technology often receive low- or no-cost gear from this organization. You may be able to find a similar organization in your area by searching online.
Another option is to try to donate your working gadget or appliance to a nationwide organization like Goodwill. However, it’s critical to know which items they will and won’t accept to reduce the strain on the organization to dispose of it.
Know All Your Recycling Options
If your unwanted electronics and tech are broken, worn out, or drained of their battery power, your next option is seek out how best