E-Cycling: 5 Tips to Make It Count

April 14th, 2011

As Earth Day approaches, we thought it would be an ideal time to explore some of the options available for disposing of electronics. While it's easy to leave an old TV on the sidewalk or toss a cellphone in the garbage, these actions have consequences. Given the earth's ever-increasing population, it is critical that we all make efficient use of space and natural resources.  Using green products and engaging in green practices, like the responsible disposal of electronics through community based electronic recycling programs, will help ensure the future availability of natural resources - a benefit for everyone. Source One of the best examples of this shift is the evolution of recycling. IOGEAR and many other manufacturers are responding to consumer demand by creating products that come in recycled/recyclable packaging, are sustainably produced and made with components that have less negative impact on the planet. Another aspect of consumer society that is constantly changing is technology. New and improved models of everything from mobile phone accessories to Internet-connected TVs are being introduced regularly with each version a little bigger, sharper or more powerful. So it makes sense that at some point, when new technology arises, we must consider green solutions for disposing of technologies that are now obsolete. Much of these old and outdated electronics end up becoming what's called “e-waste,” and e-waste can be dangerous. For example, as we outfit our homes with new flat screen TVs, millions of old analog sets make their way to the dump, each of which contains about five pounds of lead. And that doesn't even account for the tons and tons of plastics, metals, and other potentially-recyclable material that contribute to the ever-growing mountains of e-waste when electronics aren't disposed of properly. It was only a matter of time before the two got together and were tagged with a cool name: e-cycling, recycling electronics to keep them from becoming hazardous e-waste. But like any recycling, there are all sorts of stipulations and rules that must be abided by in order to e-cycle properly. Here are some of the basics you should remember to make sure that when you e-cycle to make room for new technology, you're doing so in a way that will have the most impact. 1. Donating Even if you've upgraded to the latest and greatest device, your old one could have a second life with someone who would be happy to have it. Did you get a new computer? Many schools are in need of them and can make use of your old one. New cell phone? Old phones can be donated to women in situations of domestic violence. Old TVs, CD players, DVD players and VCRs can be used by nursing homes, your local library, hospitals, and other organizations that rely on donations. You can feel good about giving your used electronics to someone who can get use out of them—and that they're not sitting in a landfill for years to come. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) even offers a list of computer/electronics recycling resources. 2. Check with your city Just as with recycling basic household waste, different cities and towns have different e-cycling policies. Some urban communities have exemplary e-cycling programs (check out The 4th Bin for a fantastic example in NYC, or Green Monster e-Cycling in CT). Contact waste management vendors in your community to see what can be done in terms of e-cycling: what can be recycled, where it goes, etc. Many big-box electronics retailers, like Best Buy and Staples, also offer recycling services for your old electronics. (New to recycling? Not sure where to start? Check out Earth 911 to find out where you can recycle in any zip code!) 3. Look into repairs Unfortunately, many electronics are “designed for the dump”: made in such a way that they are all but impossible to repair, and when repairs are possible, they're often more expensive than just buying a replacement item. (Watch The Story of Electronics for some interesting info on this.) However, if there's a minor problem with an otherwise perfectly-good appliance, take it to your local electronics repair shop and see what can be done. If repairs are possible (and cost-effective), you'll be extending the life of the appliance, keeping it out of a landfill that much longer—and maybe saving a little green while being green, too. 4. Buy green When new technology is needed, make sure you're buying the greenest you can. Look for the Energy Star rating on electronics; this lets you know that your purchase is energy-efficient, so it will have less of an impact during the time that you use it. Another great resource is Climate Counts, a non-profit that scores various companies on their environmental practices. Try to purchase from companies ranked as Striding, meaning they are making a concerted and valuable effort to be environmentally conscious in their production and how they do business. 5. Raise your voice Now that you're all fired up over e-cycling, do something about it! Much progress has been made in recent years in terms of green technology and e-cycling, but we still have a long way to go. If you don't have e-cycling in your town, reach out to other like-minded people in the community and see what can be done about instating an e-cycling program where you live. If you're concerned about the amount of toxins used to make computers, TVs and the like, write to electronics manufacturers and express your concerns, and make an effort only to purchase electronics made in the most environmentally responsible and efficient manner possible. Tech companies, like all others, rely on their consumers buying the products to turn a profit, and if enough people speak up, they will make the changes their consumers demand. You hold more power as a consumer than you know! E-cycling only works if we truly view it as a cycle: one that must be started responsibly and dealt with responsibly through each phase of a product's life. Electronics that are built with safe and renewable materials and resources, used to their fullest extent, and then passed on to the next stage of their cycle in a sustainable manner (whether through donating or recycling) will have a much smaller negative impact on our planet. You don't have to tie yourself to a tree to celebrate Earth Day, simple actions can make a difference if everyone participates all year long. E-cycling, get in the habit. Do you already e-cycle? Share your tips with us here on the blog or at Facebook.

About the Author



IOGEAR enjoys long walks on the beach and romantic getaways. While not traveling, IOGEAR enjoys a great game of shuffle board whilst playing the banjo.