You know that old television you don’t use anymore, but aren’t really sure what to do with? Well, it’s actually considered hazardous waste. The same is true of all electronics, which typically contain a host of toxic materials, including lead, cadmium and mercury. Most electronics, or “e-waste,” that people get rid of, though, really aren’t waste at all.
Electronics are made up of many different component parts, including precious metals, plastics and glass. When electronics are recycled these raw materials can actually be reused and turned into new products. While the recycling process does require the use of energy and other natural resources, it requires far less than the extraction of new materials for manufacturing.
Extraction is the process of removing raw materials from the earth to be processed into products, and it can be an energy-intensive and potentially environmentally hazardous process. When we recycle our electronic waste we are not only keeping toxic waste out of our landfills, but also helping to conserve our precious natural resources.
This is where the E-Cycle program comes in. In Washington State, there are many options for recycling several types of electronics, thanks to a product stewardship law that went into effect in 2009. This law requires electronics manufacturers to pay to recycle their products at the end of their useful lives. This successful program has helped to recycle over 10,000 tons of electronics over the past five years. Local and state governments, retailers, manufacturers, collectors and nonprofit groups work together to ensure that potentially hazardous electronic waste is not getting dumped in our landfills.
Items accepted in the E-Cycle program include televisions, computers, monitors, laptops, tablets, e-readers and portable DVD players. Households, small businesses, schools & school districts, small governments, special purpose districts, and charities can use the free service. The majority of these items that E-Cycle collects are recycled and processed right here in the state, while the rest are shipped to other facilities approved for e-waste recycling. None of the materials recycled through E-Cycle Washington are exported to third-world countries, even the items considered obsolete. Instead, they are taken apart and separated into their useful materials which are then sold as commodities and turned into new products. You can read more about E-Cycle’s policies and find an E-Cycle drop-off site near you by visiting their website at www.ecyclewashington.org or by calling 1-800-RECYCLE.
Best Buy and Staples also provide free recycling services for small electronics that might not be covered by E-Cycle, including cell phones, printer cartridges, GPS, MP3 players, CD’s or DVD’s and any computer peripherals (keyboards, mice, cords, etc.) You can visit their websites to learn more about the specifics of each of their recycling programs. The Thurston County Solid Waste database at www.WhereDoITakeMy.org is a great resource if you are wondering what do to with not only electronics but anything from mattresses, to barbecues to those old railroad ties you have hanging around!