Updated February 1, 2009

Electronic Waste is EVERYONE'S Responsibility

Electronic waste is a huge problem. When computers, smart phones, VCRs, iPods, walkmans, video games, software, and cell phones are put into land fills, they leak poisons and heavy metals into the ground, endangering our lives and the health of our planet. With 48.5 million computers discarded each year, the USA is a particularly poor recycler and global citizen, exporting its hazardous electronic waste to developing countries, often illegally, and with horrific impacts on human health and the environment in these countries. According to UNESCO, in 2008, almost 180 million computers were replaced by new machines, and an estimated 35 million computers, all containing toxic substances, were dumped rather than recycled or disposed of properly. We're almost 10 years since then, and the amount of waste has increased.

PLEASE do not throw away your computer, smart phone, cell phone, VCR, stereo, etc. into the trash (and don't allow your nonprofit to do it either!). Instead, look for computer/technology recycling centers in your area or for nonprofits that will accept tech donations. Or sell your equipment. There are many mission-based/civil society organizations that accept ewaste, either to refurbish it and provide it to schools, other civil society organizations and low-income communities, or to extract what is still usable and to properly dispose of the rest. And there is a growing number of for-profit companies who will process ewaste in an ecologically-sound manner.

For instance, the National Cristina Foundation encourages donations of used computer and Internet-enabled equipment to support nonprofits, schools and community agencies. The Foundation focuses on service providing organizations targeting people with disabilities, students at risk and economically disadvantaged populations. The Cristina Network is a community of organizations benefiting from the reuse of technology. Organizations throughout the United States are connected through the Cristina Network as a system for sharing ideas and exploring reuse solutions. The Non-Profit Locator is a web-based search tool that allows donors to find local non-profits, schools and agencies in need of equipment for their programs. Upon finding a possible recipient, the donor can review additional information about their programs and technology needs. The process for initiating the actual donation of equipment begins on the same website. Organizations with not-for-profit 501(c)(3) status as well as public schools and public agencies can apply for partnership in the Cristina Network.

To find organizations in your area that will recycle used and outdated technology, you will have to do some detective work on your own:

You can also try selling the hardware via the classified section of your local newspaper or eBay.

Remember to clean off all of the information from your electronics BEFORE you donate/sell!. Even if you go through and delete all of your information, some files can still be recovered. To be absolutely safe, reformat your hard drive.

These recycling resources and campaigns can also help: