Reducing e-waste

Rock-Energy-MAD-electronics-recycling

In keeping with the theme of this month’s feature article, let’s talk about recycling. Specifically, what do you do with e-waste?

E-waste, or electronic waste, refers to all of those old electrical devices out there either already discarded, or waiting to be discarded. Many electronic devices now have such a shortened lifespan, the amount of them hitting the trash has become a huge problem.  

Right now, an estimated 50 million tons of e-waste are produced each year. The amount produced has become such a problem that nearly half of the 50 states now have laws regulating e-waste, with many of them setting guidelines for recycling programs.

Illinois is one of the states with statutes in place.

The Electronics Products Recycling and Reuse Act of 2008 established a statewide system for recycling and/or reusing computers, monitors, televisions and printers discarded from residences, by requiring electronic manufacturers and retailers to participate in the management of discarded and unwanted electronic products. It also sets up a recycling benchmark system whereby manufacturers are required to recycle 60 percent of the yearly statewide goal. In fact, now the minimum percentage has risen to 75 percent, and manufacturers may not sell a computer, monitor, television or printer to residential customers in Illinois without having registered with the Illinois EPA. 

You can find more information about the state’s goal at http://epadata.epa.state.il.us/land/eWaste/mfr-goals.asp.

In addition, the EPA has compiled a list of e-waste collectors Illinois residents can contact regarding recycling at no charge or in exchange for a dollar-to-dollar coupon you can use to reduce the cost of new equipment. 

You can find the list at http://epadata.epa.state.il.us/land/eWaste/collection-sites.asp. 

Of course, there may not be a location in your immediate vicinity, but for most people there should be something relatively close. If you check the list and still don’t find anything, you can try the federal EPA’s site as well. 

Just go to http://www.epa.gov/osw/conserve/materials/ecycling/donate.htm. While on the page, you will see a box at the bottom with a listing of Mobile Device, PC or Television. Choose the one you want and then click the Search box. You should see a list of stores and/or locations where you can take your devices to be recycled. 

Alternatively, you may choose a specific company and search as well. Searching by this method will show which products the particular company recycles. For instance, if I select Best Buy (the first in the list) and then click Search, I see they accept televisions, PC’s and mobile devices. 

Be warned though! There may be certain restrictions when recycling. In fact, some locations may only accept electronic waste at particular times or events. Others may take one manufacturer and not another. So, be sure you call first to verify the store or recycling location will accept your old electronics. 

 lso, don’t forget charity organizations. Does that PC or television still function, and you’re just replacing because you’re upgrading? If so, consider donating it. You could try checking with your local library or preschool. Many times they need machines for simple web-browsing or programs that don’t require lots of processing power. 

 lso, if you decide to donate a computer, make sure you clean off all your personal data. There are quite a few disk-cleaning utilities out there, and many of them are available for free. Killdisk (www.killdisk.com) does a great job of removing all data from your hard drive. 

Just keep in mind you should back up everything before going through with the process. Next month, I plan to answer a few more of your questions in another Q & A column, so if you have an interesting dilemma, shoot me an e-mail, including your name and what cooperative you’re with. I’d love to hear from you.