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The Green Life: Up to Your Ears in E-Waste?

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June 04, 2013

Up to Your Ears in E-Waste?

E-wasteWhen you're recycling a newspaper or a water bottle, the process is straightforward — place the item in the appropriate bin. But when it comes to recycling electronic waste or "e-waste," it can feel like your brain is short circuiting.

Inspired by the documentary film Terra Blight, which follows the path of broken and outdated electronics, we researched safe ways to dispose of those unwanted gadgets.

1.) Donate or sell your used electronics.

If your devices still have some juice, consider donating or selling them.

Websites like Gazelle will quote a price for cell phones and Apple products, provide free shipping, and then pay you for the product. You can choose a check, an Amazon gift card, or to have the amount credited to a PayPal account.

For donations, check with local schools, the Salvation Army, and Goodwill. Doing so will also qualify you for tax deductions

Another donation option would be to look at organizations like the National Cristina Organization and the World Computer Exchange. These organizations repurpose old computers for youth, individuals with disabilities, or people who are struggling financially. 

2.) Find an electronics recycler near you.

A quick Google search will help you find a place to recycle your electronics, but that doesn't always mean it's done safely.

Try to give your items to recyclers who identify with e-stewards, a non-profit organization that provides certification for recycling centers that responsibly dispose of e-waste.

Other options to consider are programs like Call2Recycle. Just enter your zip code and Call2Recycle will find a place nearby for you to recycle cell phones and rechargeable batteries. Similarly, earth911 will also find local options for recycling for anything from e-waste to bikes and grills. 

3.) Return outdated electronics to the manufacturer or a retail store.

Many manufacturers have electronics take-back programs. A list of manufacturers and where to find detailed information on recycling with these companies can be found at Electronics Take Back Coalition

Some retailers, like Best Buy, Office Depot and Staples, also recycle e-waste. Before you go, take a quick look at their list of accepted electronics.


REMEMBER: Regardless of whether you sell, donate, or recycle your old electronics, make sure to wipe all personal and financial information from your devices. Also, be sure to check if batteries need to be removed and recycled separately. 

--Image by iStockphoto/Filip_Krstic

Christine Coester is an editorial intern at Sierra. A fan of flora and fauna, she has a passion for conservation and environmental stewardship. Currently a graduate student at the University of Missouri-Columbia, she is studying journalism with the hopes of making the world a better and greener place.



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