| By Katherine Murray |
It seems like just a few years ago, getting rid of old computer equipment meant giving it to someone else who would use it or (I hate to admit) putting the old printer out with the trash — a bad practice, we know now.
There are many good reasons to recycle your electronics — and it’s relatively easy to do. Here are some of the better choices.
Keeping e-waste out of the landfills
Do you have old PCs, MP3 players, digital cameras, and a printer or two shoved into a corner of your garage? Are your old cell phones filling up a drawer? Over the past decade or so, our love of computers and gadgetry has driven us to have more electronic devices at hand and to replace them more frequently. The average life of a home computer these days is only three years.
That kind of replacement rate leaves a growing wake of discarded electronic stuff that weighs in at 2.4 million tons per year, according to a report (PDF) published in 2009 by the U.N.’s Environment Programme. That’s a lot of cell phones, PCs, and televisions.
Unfortunately, one of the largest consumers of electronics, the U.S., lags well behind other nations (such as members of the E.U.) in setting policies that define the ways to handle discarded technology. It mostly comes down to this: gather up what we can and ship it overseas.
We can hope the waste goes to reputable recyclers who use safe methods to mine any reusable materials — such as copper, gold, glass, and aluminum. But we know that a substantial percentage of those materials end up in third-world villages where they are burned to extract their precious metals — a method that’s hazardous to everyone concerned, children and adults.