Many of us are familiar with recycling. You likely do it daily with plastic bottles, cans, or boxes. But how often do you recycle your electronics?
When an electronic item of ours dies, the natural response is to replace it. If and when you choose to replace your worn out electronic item, what do you do with the old one? It can be tempting to simply throw it in the trash bin or set it out on the curb — out of sight, out of mind, right?
As a part of the outdoor industry, we are responsible for protecting and preserving the outdoor spaces we love. When producing electronic products, having ethical and sustainable sourcing of materials is part of the process. The product afterlife is also a big part of waste mitigation and sustainable product production.
Everything we produce and buy has an impact on our planet. So, if we can lessen that impact by turning our waste into something new, we are moving in the right direction.
Without proper recycling and disposal practices, electronic components like batteries, plastics, and other mechanisms can heavily burden the environment.
Basics on how to recycle electronics
First things first, never throw your electronics in the trash.
Most people don’t realize that if electronic waste makes it to the right place, almost 100% of it is recyclable. The materials in electronics – plastics, glass, copper, silver, metal, and other resources – can be recovered, repurposed, and reused.
The EPA estimates that only about 12% of electronic items are recycled properly, although most e-waste is recyclable. Why aren’t we reusing electronics if companies built them using so many reusable materials?
The simple answer is that electronic recycling is not always easily accessible. Also, e-waste recycling isn’t often done properly, and it isn’t always affordable for companies to use recycled materials.
As a consumer, we urge you to get to know your local recycling programs so you can be a part of the solution. The more you know about where to recycle e-waste, the more likely those electronic items will be reused. The first step is getting them to the right place.
3 ways to recycle electronics
Before we jump right into how to recycle electronics, remember that sometimes broken things are fixable. If an electronic device stops working and there is no visible damage, there could be something wrong that you’re unaware of. Take a moment to look up electronic repair shops in your area before you decide to get rid of a device.
Try one of the following three ways to recycle electronics if your device cannot be repaired.
1. Find a tech company that recycles e-waste
While pop up recycling programs are becoming more common, most of them are only located in major cities. However, most tech companies will accept e-waste and recycle it for you.
You can go to most chain locations of these tech companies and have them recycle many e-waste items:
- Best Buy
This list is not all-inclusive for tech companies that recycle items. In fact, most tech companies offer product recycling programs as long as it is one of their electronics. For example, companies that produce a specific product, like Verizon, will only accept e-waste related to cell phones. If you have an HP computer, you should bring it to HP for recycling.
General locations like Best Buy or Staples offer a wide range of tech trade-ins, general electronic recycling, and haul-away e-waste recycling.
2. Locate an e-steward or e-recycling program near you
Most e-waste recycling is either municipal, private, or national.
Suppose you live in an area that has a general municipal e-recycling program. Find out if they recycle electronics in the United States or if they export to developing countries where e-waste is put into landfills.
To ensure that the recycling program does not export electronics to other countries, use an e-steward program. All e-steward programs have strict standards for electronic recycling and will accept most items.
When using a generalized e-waste recycling program, it is important to look into how they actually are processing these items. If they are only taking parts of the electronic and throwing the rest away, it may not be the best option available.
3. Donate old electronics that still work
Sometimes when we replace an electronic item, it isn’t broken; we just need an upgrade. If that is the case, then consider donating them to charities. There are various charities that collect and distribute electronics to underprivileged communities to help individuals and families that cannot afford them.
You may be able to find some local charities or a local school that is in need of electronics. If you can’t find one locally, then look to national or global organizations.
Even if your device isn’t entirely functional, if it can be repaired, many programs will still accept the donation. Plus, when donating an electronic to a charity, you can most often add that as a tax write off for that year.
Invest in electronics that are built to last
One of the best ways to help out the planet is to reduce consumption. While we can’t eliminate everything we buy, we can choose to buy high-quality products that are built to last. That’s why we design durable and long-lasting electronics that can be used in outdoor settings at Outdoor Tech.
Not everything will last forever, but we were able to create products like the Turtle Shell 3.0 Speaker that is waterproof and shockproof. As with most outdoor equipment, when investing in electronics, quality should always be the top priority. Even if you spend a little more money upfront, you will be saving time and money in the long-run because they last longer.
When shopping for electronics and outdoor gear, look into whether a company provides a warranty for repairs or returns. Some companies also have specific programs to ensure consumers are taking responsibility for the afterlife of their products.