where can i recycle electronics?

If only it were easy to drop everything in a recycling bin instead of throwing it away. But unfortunately, it's not that simple to recycle electronic items - TVs, computers (including keyboards, monitors, ­mice, printers, scanners and other accessories), cell phones, DVD players, video cameras and answering machines.

Why is throwing away electronics so bad, you might ask?

Image: SCEEC

In 1998 America discarded 20 million computers and by 2009 that number had climbed to 47.4 million. A 2011 report by Pike Research estimates that the volume and weight of global e-scrap will more than double in the next 15 years. (Economist) Electronics and other household electrical gadgets are filled with heavy metals and toxic chemicals - a typical piece of electronic equipment, especially one like a PC with many circuit boards, can contain up to eight pounds of lead, along with lower levels of mercury, arsenic, cadmium, beryllium and other chemicals. Once e-waste arrives in third world areas, laborers earn their incomes by recycling these old computers, TVs and cell phones for their core components - but the process is ugly. (How Stuff Works) E-waste collects in large, toxic mountains in these poorer areas, polluting the ground and making the residents sick.

Recycling one million laptops saves the energy equivalent to the electricity used by more than 3,500 US homes in a year. (EPA)

So, where can you recycle electronics? Best Buy accepts many electronics (including ones not bought at Best Buy) for recycling, at no charge. And if they do need to charge you a $10 recycling fee, they give you a $10 Best Buy gift card as reimbursement. You can drop items off at customer service, but there are also kiosks in the entrance of many stores where you can drop batteries, cell phones and toner cartridges. The Best Buy site also informs you of what happens after you drop items off.

EPA has a search feature that will give you options for recycling your choice of electronics - but many of the options are mail-in.

1-800-Recycling is a great search engine that lets you search by your area or by what item you have - and it's not limited to electronics.

1-800-Got Junk also accepts your waste and does what it can to keep it out of landfills. 

Earth911 provides tips on e-waste and electronics recycling. They also explain how electronics are recycled.

Consumer Report manages the Greener Choices Electronics Reuse and Recycling Center, which gives you many options for getting rid of your stuff. The site also gives information and tips on how to protect your identity - which is VERY important when you are recycling computers or cell phones.

When you are recycling one of them, be sure you do some research and wipe all personal data first. Best Buy clearly states that they are not responsible for removing personal data. Mother Nature Network and the University of Buffalo IT Department provide information on wiping your electronics clean.

With a little research and effort up front, you can take care to send off your electronics to recycling heaven.

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