Electronic waste has become a huge problem. When computers, stereos, 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.
PLEASE do not throw away your computer, networking, audio or video technology (including cell phones) or software into the trash (and don't allow your nonprofit to do it either!). Instead, look for computer/technology recycling centers in your area, 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.
To find such organizations in your area, you will have to do some detective work on your own:
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:
Share the Technology
Although the nonprofit has been discontinued, the web site continues to provide an online computer donation database that helps connect computer donors with schools and nonprofit organizations seeking donations in the USA, Puerto Rico, Canada and England.
The Computer TakeBack
The goal of the campaign is to protect the health and well being of electronics users, workers, and the communities where electronics are produced and discarded by requiring consumer electronics manufacturers and brand owners to take full responsibility for the life cycle of their products, through effective public policy requirements or enforceable agreements. The site provides a searchable database of electronics recyclers who have signed its pledge for responsible recycling.
National Recycling Coalition
- Electronics Recycling Initiative
Promotes the recovery, reuse and recycling of obsolete electronic equipment, and encourages the design, manufacture and purchase of environmentally responsible electronic equipment. NRC maintains a recycling database for electronics (e.g. computers), free electronics recycling training, tips on how to properly manage old electronic equipment, a list of electronics recycling and reuse options for consumers and small businesses, and a list of state electronics recycling policies and programs.
The Computer Recycling Center
a California-based nonprofit organization that recycles unusable technology to keep it out of landfills. The Center takes all computers, technology, network, telephone, test equipment and cell phones, working and non-working, and overstocks of electronic parts. The Center will pay shipping costs to send in laptops and laptop parts to its nonprofit program. Most other technology must be dropped off at one of its Northern California Centers, although some pick up services are available.
Before you return or recycle any phone or wireless tech tool, take the time to visit this site. In addition to helping you with recycling options, it will help you how to truly clean out all the memory (do not EVER trust any recycler, even the manufacturer, to do this for you).
Considering starting a local education effort about the proper recycling or disposal of ewaste, with local government officials and your city's largest employers. Some local civic groups (Girl Scouts, Lion's Club) as well as the local high school(s) might love to be involved in such, as its simple to undertake and an "easy sell." If nothing exists yet, consider creating a web site targeted at your local community to help people dispose of their ewaste, and when you have even a small number of resources, contact your local newspaper about writing an article about the initiative.
Also, consider approaching management at your employer about instituting an environmentally-friendly computer recycling program for its office equipment, particularly ewaste.
See TechSoup for more information about recycling used computers and other hardware.
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