Recycle battery box.

How many electronic items do you own? Like most people, you probably have a cellphone, laptop or desktop computer, and TV. What about a smart speaker, security camera, tablet, e-reader, rechargeable power tools, remotes, and computer monitor? Studies find the average U.S. home has 28 devices. 

In 2018, U.S. consumers generated 2.7 million tons of electronic waste (e-waste). Yet, only 25 states have laws pertaining to e-waste. The last e-waste laws were passed in Washington D.C. in 2014. In 10 years, no other states have joined these in passing e-waste legislation.

  • 2003 to 2005 – California, Maine, and Maryland
  • 2006 to 2010 – Washington, Connecticut, Minnesota, Oregon, Texas, North Carolina, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Virginia, West Virginia, Missouri, Hawaii, Rhode Island, Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin, Vermont, South Carolina, New York, and Pennsylvania
  • 2011 to 2014 – Utah and Washington D.C.

E-waste is growing exponentially. As technology advances, people purchase replacements to have the updated, sometimes more secure, option. Older 3G phones became outdated as 4G and 5G rolled out. Security patches stop being released after a certain point, so a newer model seems safer.

As older, unwanted electronics pile up, people don’t often understand what to do with them. It can be frustrating to navigate how to recycle, especially when you live in a state with no laws on electronics recycling. It’s also very important to recycle as that’s the key to protecting natural resources that have to be mined and the environment from the release of toxic metals in the groundwater and soil. Our guide helps you understand what to do.

The Dangers of E-Waste

We touched on the problems with e-waste. Now, take a closer look at what is often found in electronics. Old or new, there are hazardous materials to consider.

  • Arsenic
  • Beryllium
  • Cadmium
  • Chromium
  • Copper
  • Lead
  • Mercury
  • Nickel

You also have plastics that can break down into microplastics that are found in everything from fish to the blood clots found in some medical patients. A more recent study found microplastics inside men’s testicles, which medical scientists fear may be tied to infertility. Between 2000 and 2018, sperm counts fell by almost 3% per year. Compare that to 1973 and 2018 when the decrease was just over 1% per year.

Even when electronics are recycled, things can go wrong. Are your electronics being recycled in the U.S. or sent to impoverished countries where they’re not recycled in secure, safe ways? That is why it’s very important to look for electronics recyclers who are R2 and e-Stewards certified. Better, also check for ISO certifications that show the recycler protects its workers and takes data security seriously.

How Does Electronics Recycling Help the Planet?

Pollution of the air, soil, and groundwater are just part of the benefits offered by electronics recycling. It also lessens the need for mining and processing materials. Mining is a harmful practice that can harm workers, destroy the land being mined, and also use a lot of energy. Have you ever looked at the pictures of Picher, Oklahoma?

Picher dates back to the 1910s when lead and zinc ore were found to be abundant. Mining companies set up and started stripping the land of those valuable materials. When the mines closed in the 1960s, people didn’t realize the dangers to come. The byproducts of mining were abundant and kids played with it, adults used it to fill sandboxes and other areas where sand was helpful. Those piles contained lead, so everyone in contact with it was being exposed to lead.

Eventually, water from the mines started making it to a nearby stream and animals and plants began to die. Homes started collapsing from erosion. Despite efforts to save the town, people took government money in order to relocate to safer towns.

Recycling prevents the need to keep mining raw materials. They are reused instead, which is better for everyone. And, mining jobs may dwindle, but electronics recycling jobs make up for any losses, so it balances out.

How Should You Dispose of Electronics?

How do you recycle your electronics? Start by going through and deleting any files, photos, and videos on them. Make sure you’ve transferred them to another device or cloud storage. Then, do a factory reset if necessary. You won’t need to do that for something like a rechargeable power tool, but you do need to on your phone, computer, tablet, e-reader, smart speaker, etc.

A factory reset isn’t enough to fully destroy data. If you work in a business where you store customer, client, or patient information, you need to do more than that. Software that wipes data is a safer option. It can be tricky for companies to know how to do this. You may find it better to work with an electronics recycler specializing in ITAD services.

Once you’ve prepared items, you need to know where to go. Retailers like Best Buy, Goodwill, and Staples take a limited number of electronics from customers for safe, responsible recycling. Your local recycling facility may accept them, too. 

For about $200, you can have Best Buy come to your home and pick up as many electronics as you have to recycle. There is a limit of two major electronics, however. Ask your local store about the Standalone Haul Away service or go online to arrange a time for pick-up. 

If you’re not close by, order a recycling box from ERI. The box’s fee covers shipping, recycling, pick-up at your home using UPS, and tracking services.

Tips For Preparing Your Items for Recycling

You should prepare your electronics for recycling. Delete your files and videos, and remove personal data. Then do a factory reset. That’s a good first step, but you also need to ensure you’re recycling with a company that puts security and data destruction first.

ERI can wipe data and even shred old electronics to ensure there’s no way to retrieve data. We destroy data following regulations, no matter if you’re a hospital, government agency, or branch of the military. We follow whatever protocols are required. ERI can come to your office if that’s best or we use secure transportation methods and real-time tracking from the moment your devices leave your building.

Future generations need people to take steps today. Tossing electronics into the trash, even if it doesn’t spark a lithium battery fire, is irresponsible and dangerous. Landfill liners haven’t been around long enough to truly understand what happens in 100 years. All of the metals in today’s electronics could end up in the groundwater, soil, and air. 

With electronics recycling so easy to do, there’s no reason to avoid it. ERI offers plenty of solutions for businesses and consumers to make recycling your e-waste a hassle-free task.