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Recycling Electronics: Everything You Need to Know

Dec 08, 2021

A man holding a container full of cords and wires

Electronics are a vital, beneficial part of our everyday lives. These devices have advanced our society, allowed us to connect to others across the globe, streamlined routine tasks and given us the opportunity to accomplish more than ever before. However, it’s important to be cognizant of our role in discarding electronic products to avoid devastating the environment. All too often, we don’t even think about where our electronics go after we’re through with them. But it’s a huge issue! The average laptop lasts three to five years, and the average cellphone’s lifespan is even less. But where do all of these forlorn laptops and cellphones go?1

Over the last few years, you might have heard about the issues of used and discarded electronic devices. Electronic waste, or “e-waste” for short, is the term used for electronic products that are unwanted, not working or nearing the end of their “useful life.”2 Electronic products that eventually become e-waste can include computers, televisions, cellphones and copiers, just to name a few. Below is a more comprehensive list of everyday electronics you might find in your home — items that will likely end up as electronic waste. It’s not surprising then, that Americans own about 24 electronic products per household, which reinforces the need for a more sustainable disposal solution.2 Enter electronic recycling!

A Burgeoning Issue

Because of the relatively short lifespan of some electronics and society’s demand for the newest high-tech products, electronic waste is the fastest-growing waste stream across the globe. In fact, the amount of global e-waste is expected to grow by 8% per year.3 Since these electronics contain metals, when they’re thrown in the garbage and end up in a landfill they can leak toxic chemicals when buried, which is why the need for electronic recycling is important.

According to the EPA, only about 15% – 20% of e-waste is recycled, meaning the rest is sent to landfills.2 The chemicals leached are toxic for our environment and our communities.

Where to Recycle Electronics

To avoid contributing to e-waste, you can properly recycle your old or broken electronics at a trusted local electronics recycler. Not sure where to find one? The EPA lists several options for donating or recycling your electronics.4 In addition, many electronics companies have their own recycling programs, and some electronics recyclers even offer pickup services!

Many recyclers will also check that your electronics can still be used or refurbished before they’re sold for parts. Refurbishing is an environmentally sound alternative that can give these devices a few extra years of use.

Remember to Erase Your Data

Before you recycle or donate your electronic devices, it’s critical that you erase all of your data from the device. It’s not enough just to delete the files! You’ll also need to wipe the hard drive so that no one can retrieve any of the important, personal information that might still be hanging around. But, before you wipe the hard drive, make sure to save any important data on a backup drive. External hard drives, USB jump drives and even cloud storage will all work for data backup.

When to Recycle a Device

As soon as possible! Many of us have a drawer or shoebox full of old phones and laptops. Instead of letting your old electronics pile up, recycle them as soon as possible. Electronics lose value very quickly, so you’re far more likely to get something for them — and the devices are much more likely to find a new home after being refurbished — if you recycle them the moment they’ve outlived their use for you.

When You Do Need a New Electronic Device

We understand, too, that retailers release exciting new tech products that continue to make our lives easier and better. Once you’ve properly recycled your older, outdated or no-longer-working electronics, turn to Acima. Our lease-to-own solution will help you get what you need — without using credit.* If you make the number of payments defined under your lease or exercise an option to purchase it easly at a discount, it’s yours! If you no longer need it, you can simply return it in good condition at any time without further obligation.

Instead of simply throwing away e-waste, let’s remember to do our part and recycle. For more information about the importance of doing so, visit the EPA today.4

Examples of Everyday Electronics That Will Likely End Up as Electronic Waste

Technology:

-       Cell phones

-       Smartphones

-       Desktop computers and monitors

-       Laptops

-       Hard drives

Appliances:

-       Microwaves

-       Electric cookers

-       Heaters

-       Fans

Entertainment:

-       TVs

-       Video game systems

-       Printers

-       Copiers

-       Fax machines

-       DVD and Blu-ray players

Other electronics and electronic-related items:

-       Remote controls

-       Lamps

-       Treadmills

-       Smart watches

-       Electrical cords

Sources:

  1. 10 Things You Should Know About Recycling Electronics” – Family Handyman, Aug. 23, 2021

  2. What is E-waste? Definition and Why It’s Important” – Great Lakes Electronic Corporation

  3. E-Waste Recycling Facts and Figures” – The Balance Small Business, Jan. 14, 2020

  4. Where to Donate or Recycle” – Environmental Protection Agency