Electronics are among some of the worst products to end up in landfills. In the United States, we’ve become one of the largest producers of electronic waste, or e-waste, in the world. This type of waste is incredibly harmful to the environment, not to mention a waste of valuable resources. There are already millions of tons of e-waste in landfills, but we can do something to help keep electronics out by recycling them.

We’re all familiar with the importance of recycling things like single-use plastic, but many aren’t aware of how they recycle more things in their life, like electronics. As electronics become more prevalent, being well-informed is more important now than ever. 

1. What Counts as E-Waste?

Before you recycle anything, you might be wondering if the devices you have would be considered e-waste. Many people know that large appliances, like washing machines, have to be recycled properly, but might not be aware of how many things should be recycled as e-waste. Anything battery-powered, as well as anything that has circuit or electric elements. This could be anything from cellphones to refrigerators. 

2. Where Does E-Waste End Up?

The overwhelming majority of electronics end up in landfills rather than being recycled. In the United States, most of the electronics we send to landfills end up polluting Asian countries. When e-waste does wind up in landfills, it will long outlast us. Many electronic devices will last for over a million years after being thrown away. E-waste also makes up the majority of toxic waste in the world. 

3. Where to Recycle Your Electronics 

If you have electronics you’re planning to get rid of, there are only certain places you can take them to be properly recycled. This isn’t like your normal recyclables where you can simply put them in a bin on the curb to be taken away. You’ll have to find a local electronics recycling center that you know will follow all the guidelines to have them recycled responsibly. If you have large or multiple electronics to be recycled, you might be able to arrange to have your recycling center come to you to have them removed. 

4. Electronics Contain Toxic Chemicals

When you have phones, computers, and other tech products lying around your house, you probably don’t wonder much about what’s in them. Because of this, many people aren’t aware of the alarming amount of toxins their household and business electronics contain. When they’re in our homes and well-taken care of, the elements and chemicals inside of electronics have no threat, it’s only once they waste away in landfill or are incinerated that they become harmful. These toxins can eventually soak into the ground and contaminate nearby water that can be incredibly expensive and difficult to clean up.    

Sarah McConomy with SellCell gave us an example of this. “When electronic waste is improperly disposed of and ends up in landfills it can cause damaging effects to the environment and our health. Cell phones, for instance contain harmful toxins including lead, mercury, arsenic, cadmium, chlorine and bromine. If disposed of in landfills these toxins can be absorbed into the air, ground and water supply and over time cause harmful effects to the ecosystem and the environment.”

5. It Could Be Illegal to Not Recycle Electronics

Some people might think that they’re simply doing the greener thing by recycling their electronics instead of throwing them out. While this takes better care of the environment, it isn’t as optional as some people might think. In certain states, it’s illegal to throw away electronics. If you do throw away your electronics in these states, you could be facing a hefty fine. Even if it isn’t illegal in your state, you should always take the appropriate steps to recycle your electronics. 

6. Some Electronics Might Be Able to Be Donated

If your electronics are still in good shape, but you just wanted an upgrade, you don’t necessarily need to recycle the entire thing. For electronics that are still working like they should, you might be able to donate them for someone else to use. Where you would normally take your electronics to be donated might offer services that can help you donate them. This helps keep more electronics from ending up in landfills and requires less work to have more electronics made. 

7. You Need to Wipe Your Data

Before you recycle any electronics, it’s extremely important that you have any data on your devices wiped. Going through and manually deleting files isn’t enough to ensure that no one can find your personal and private data. Even if your device is no longer usable, your important data can still be extracted. To securely wipe data, you need to bring it to professionals who can handle destroying data before the device is recycled. Whether they’re being donated or recycled, keep yourself or your business safe and secure by ensuring nothing is left on your electronics. 

8. Find a Way to Save Important Files

The last thing you want is to get rid of a device and realize days, weeks, or months later that you left something important on it with no backup. You can use whatever your preferred way of backing up your files is, whether it be saving it right to the cloud or transferring it to a physical drive. Before recycling your old electronics, make sure you go through them thoroughly to save any information you have on it, like music, pictures, documents, and contacts. 

9. What Recycled Electronics Can Be Turned Into

The electronics we use on a daily basis contain expensive elements and components that we might not realize are there. Obviously, most electronics have plastic and glass that we’re already familiar with being recycled, but did you know they might also have elements like silver and gold?  Because of this, recycled electronics can be later be turned into a number of different items, including being used to create new electronics. Not only that but many times you can actually make money on recycling tech and use that toward the purchase of something new. We spoke with Joanie Demer, co-founder of The Krazy Coupon Lady, who told us how she uses the money from her recycled tech to purchase new tech. “One of the great benefits of recycling tech is that it can save you money on new tech.”

10. Do You Have to Pay?

Like the recycling you have for your home or business, you’ll also have to pay a small fee most of the time when you recycle electronics. Properly recycling the components of electronics and ensuring they don’t end up in landfills is an expensive task, so it’s often necessary to pay for these services. When it comes to reducing the amount of e-waste polluting our environment, the cost to recycle is more than worth it. The cost of having your old electronics recycled is also far less than a fine you’d get for disposing of them incorrectly.