As much as we might all like to live in an unconnected world, growing our own food and popping in unannounced to see the neighbours, it’s just just practical for most of us living in cities today. And while we can’t have much say in how our cellphones, laptops, and digital cameras are made, we can do the right thing when it comes to disposal.
Because there are so many reasons not to throw out old electronics.
First of all, there’s a good chance that it’s not ready for the scrap heap just yet: most electronics, even if they’re not working, can be repaired, upgraded and resold to someone who can’t afford a new one. And if it’s really beyond redemption, then the glass, metal and plastic components can be reused to make new stuff, at a lower environmental cost than virgin materials.
Dump your broken tablet in the trash and aside from needlessly contributing to the horror of the landfill system, your device could end up leaching harmful chemicals into the air and earth. A better option is to take it back to the store you purchased it from – many, such as Staples and BestBuy in North America, have recycling programs. Most cities have a number of private companies that will charge a fee to pick up your unwanted items, but with a little research you may be able to find a public service that will accept electronics: in the U.S. see call2recycle.org for cellphones and batteries, in Australia you can check www.zerowaste.sa.gov.au/e-waste for a list of free-drop-off sites. A word of caution: try to look into the final destination of your old gadgets; some recycling companies still export e-waste to developing countries, where processing is often unregulated and unsafe.
And if your stuff is still working?
Ask at your local shelter if they accept cell phones. Many give them out to women in domestic abuse situations so they can call the emergency services in a crisis. For working computers, cameras, GPS systems, scanners etc., you could try to make some dough by posting it on a site like Craigslist, or you could join the revolution and post on an “online gift network” like Freecycle.org, where you offer items for free to locals who will come and take them off your hands (and hey, you might spot something you could use!)
Photo credit: The4thMonkey.com