New gadgets. They’re shiny. They’re fun. They do old things faster. They do new things better.
The age of buying a device and keeping it for much more than a year or two is fading — and fading fast. No doubt you have a phone, a computer, a TV or some other gadget that is less than a year old … likely much newer.
According to the folks at DoSomething.org, we in the US dump 20 to 50 million metric tons of electronic waste (e-waste) each year. That’s staggering. Yikes!
Spring is here. It might be the one time of the year when that ubiquitous junk drawer — ahem, closet — full of e-waste is finally cleaned out.
What are your options?
➡ Donate to a good cause. You know the old adage: one person’s trash is another person’s treasure. Don’t be the person who donates junk electronics to your local charity. Do be a person who has the resources to make gently used electronics available to others. You might be adding a huge amount of dollars to a non-profit’s bottom line, freeing thousands of dollars of funding for direct services instead of expensive electronics.
➡ Repurpose. You might not be caught dead with an iPhone, laptop or workstation from several years back, but it might be the case that the old devices still have some life left in them. Use an old phone as a music hub for an old car, a dedicated remote control for your streaming device of choice or even as a camera for your budding elementary photojournalist. The sky’s the limit.
➡ Recycle. Sure, sure. What article like this would be complete without a call to recycle? The EPA notes that less than 15 percent of all e-waste is recycled. That’s scary. And here’s why. According to US News and World Report’s Tom Risen, America has mountains of toxic e-waste being shipped overseas and even more piling up or not being recycled appropriately. There’s hazardous waste involved. Back to DoSomething. They note that a large variety of our electronics contain hazardous waste. So,
85 percent-plus of millions of tons of e-waste is piling up year after year. That’s unacceptable for our kid’s futures. We have to take action and recycle with purpose.
If you’re like me, you’ve come to feel a little guilty when you don’t have a good recycling option. And electronics are such a daunting recycling concept that we have often just pushed them farther back in the closet and tried to ignore them.
We should recycle out of a purposeful good and not a debilitating guilt. There’s exciting reasons why you can feel better than ever about recycling. Kimberly Button with Earth911.com notes these fascinating stats:
➡ Recycling circuit boards can be more valuable than mining for ore! One ton of circuit boards is estimated to contain 40 to 800 times more gold than one metric ton of ore. There is 30 to 40 times more copper in a ton of circuit boards that can be mined from one metric ton of ore.
➡ For every one million cell phones that are recycled, the EPA states that 35,274 pounds of copper, 772 pounds of silver, 75 pounds of gold and 33 pounds of palladium can be recovered. For those not familiar with palladium, it is a precious metal used for making electrical contacts, surgical instruments and parts for watches.
➡ If the recycling rates for gold (15 percent), silver (15 percent) and platinum (5 percent) all increased to 100 percent, the electronics sector could realize $12 billion in financial and natural capital benefits.
Button concludes with this wise advice: “Many major retailers will take e-waste for recycling, regardless of whether you purchased the product from the retailer or not. Among those stores accepting drop-offs are Staples, Verizon and Best Buy. Always call ahead of time to confirm that stores will accept e-waste and what types of products they will recycle.”
We have a long road ahead of us. We love to grab the shiny new thing, but we seriously have to get better at learning what to do with the old stuff. Become a super sleuth. Hop online with that new gadget of yours and join me and others in finding out what our options are. You can’t do it all by yourself, but you can take action, and your action counts.
So, with that my friends, may your spring cleaning be more inspired than ever! Watch out junk drawers everywhere…we’re coming for you!
By Richard Singleton. Singleton, MACE, MAMFC, LPC, is the president of STARRY in Round Rock.