From Recycling to E-Cycling

E WasteNow that the gift-giving season is coming to a close and all of our new goodies are properly installed around our households, it is time to reflect and think about what happened to our waste and what we could have done differently. Many old electronics are thoughtlessly discarded, destroyed, and unfortunately land filled, but this does not have to be the case! People around the world are learning about new ways to donate, recycle, or even re-purpose or up-cycle their old electronic goods.

Websites such as Guzu.com, Buymytronics.com, government entities such as the EPA, and other local entities around the world are responding to the massive increases in waste – especially in the technological cycle. TVs, computers, laptops, iPods, iPads, and much more are all items that have a large amount of embodied energy. In other words, the electronics of the 21st century take a large amount of energy and resources just to produce a final product, not to mention what it takes to collect, haul, and dispose of such products. As Bill McDonough may suggest, it is important to consider what our products are made of, where they come from, and how we dispose of them. Imagine the entire life-cycle of the materials in each product. Metals and other raw materials used to build computers, cameras, and TVs can be disassembled, re-purposed, and at the end of the day potentially UP-cycled from the older, “out-of-date” product.

  • Recycling electronics, such as cell phones, televisions, and computers (along with rechargeable batteries found in many of these items), keeps potentially harmful materials out of the waste stream and the environment.
  • Effective 2015, certain electronic equipment (such as computers and televisions) will be banned from disposal, everything else can be legally discarded as trash.
  • Recycling one million laptops saves the energy equivalent to the electricity used by more than 3,500 US homes in a year.
  • For every million cell phones we recycle, 35 thousand pounds of copper, 772 pounds of silver, 75 pounds of gold, and 33 pounds of palladium can be recovered.

To manage your electronics legally and responsibly, take advantage of take-back, reuse, and recycling programs online or in your local neighborhood. As government entities around the nation are discussing new regulations on electronics disposal, there is no better time to take responsibility for how we dispose of our waste and get used to practicing sustainability! Join the Sustainable Materials Management Electronics Challenge and find out where you can donate or recycle your old electronics today!

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About Brandon Kaysen

Sat Nam! I'm one of the Sustainability Advisors of the West Coast for Healthy Buildings. I guide project teams through the LEED EBO&M process and encourage sustainable solutions for energy, water, and material use reduction. I'm a California boy, born and raised in Roseville, studied in Santa Barbara, and now reside in Newport Beach. I love the outdoors, green buildings, healthy food, competitive sports, meditation, yoga, and much more!

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