The United Nations Environmental Program estimates that each year, 20-50 million tons of e-waste is dumped into landfills around the world, ranging from old phones, TVs, microwaves, computers and more – but most of the time it’s not because these gadgets are defunct; they’re being dumped in favor of new releases. While getting your hands on a new piece of tech can give way to countless hours of entertainment, it also brings with it a whole lot of toxic waste. Most people fail to properly dispose of their unwanted electronics, carelessly trashing them without regard to the hazardous materials they contain, including PCBs, lead and mercury. Many of these chemicals are known to cause cancer, respiratory illness, and reproductive problems, and damage the earth by seeping into the soil and ground water. What can you do to stop this dangerous cycle? Well since we’re 100% sure that you’ll one day soon find yourself with some unwanted electronics on hand, we’ve rounded up 6 sustainable tips to help you deal with electronic waste.
1. Recycle Them
Step away from the trashcan! You should never dump unwanted electronics – instead, take them to an e-waste recycler. Many local and big box electronic stores like Best Buy and Staples have in-store recycling programs and will handle your small gadgets for free, and bigger items such as a computer or TV for a small fee. You can also check e-Steward for additional resources. However, be very sure that you’re turning your electronics into a responsible recycler that promises not to export to e-waste dumps, and abides by BAN guidelines. Countries like China and India handle recycled waste at a much lower cost than the US, but they also follow less strict modes of handling. Oftentimes the same tools used to melt down the reclaimed materials are being used for other things like cooking — even by children — essentially poisoning them through ingestion. And this is on top of the toxic fumes they are inhaling as they melt down your gadgets.