We live in a disposable world. It is far too easy to simply toss out that old phone, laptop or e-reader and buy new when a snazzy new version comes out. We all know that it’s terrible for the environment to simply throw old electronics away, but what should you do with them instead? In honor of Earth Day, here are some tips for how to safely dispose of your old gadgets.
It has been projected that the amount of e-waste produced worldwide in 2018 will be close to 50 million metric tons, with the United States producing more e-waste annually than any other country. These figures are increasing every year, despite the fact that 100 percent of e-waste is recyclable.
It’s easy to see why. The average lifespan of electronics is decreasing rapidly. Computers last on average about two years, and we can say the same for many other types of mobile devices like cell phones and tablets. As devices get thinner, lighter and smaller, they also get more difficult and expensive to repair and upgrade as components like RAM and the hard drive are fused to the motherboard, making them irreplaceable.
Electronics that are improperly disposed of leach toxic chemicals into soil and groundwater: Lead, mercury, barium and arsenic to name a few. Scavengers often burn e-waste to get to the components that have value, which causes air pollution.
Here are some conservation ideas:
I always first try to recycle old electronics within our family in some way, or with a friend. Once you’ve upgraded to the latest iPhone, your old one can be used as a portable gaming device, music player or loaded up with movies for the kids for your next road trip. Better yet, download all your audiobooks on it and keep it for yourself, saving the battery on your primary device, or using it as a device dedicated for your car.
Your old laptop or tablet may be perfect for a someone who doesn’t need the snazziest computer to surf the web or play their online crossword puzzle games. An old gaming console can act as a streaming device to give house guests access to Netflix, or even an alternate device for the kids to play on while you get the latest console all to yourself.
A lot of older electronics still have value. Check Craigslist, eBay and Facebook Marketplace to see how much similar items are selling for and determine if this route is worth pursuing.
Don’t want the hassle of selling directly to another person? Gazelle (www.gazelle.com) will buy back a variety of gently-used electronics. Search for your item to see if it has value on its website. If you accept an offer, shipping is free, and Gazelle provides payments through check, PayPal or Amazon.com gift cards.
Speaking of Amazon, it also has a trade-in program that gives Amazon gift cards for all sorts of e-waste: Phones, electronics, cameras, accessories and others. Select from items you’ve purchased in the past through Amazon or submit the information about the gadget you’re looking to sell.
If you just want the fastest solution, I still implore you to not simply throw it away. When my mother replaced her phone this year, Verizon had a bin in their store for disposing of old devices. Most electronics stores — Best Buy, Staples and Sprint — accept smaller electronics for proper disposal.
For larger items, or if your small business has amassed a shelf full, All Green Electronics Recycling (https://www.allgreenrecycling.com/redding) provides recycling services that include data shredding for a fee. They’ll come to your location to pick up. Click on the link on its site for a quote.
Computers and televisions can be recycled at Best Buy and Staples. Some manufacturers offer recycling programs, such as Dell, LG, VIZIO, Samsung and Sony. Check with the manufacturer for more information about your model.
The city of Redding accepts e-waste at its facility on Abernathy Lane. Simply drop it off during normal business hours. There’s no charge to recycle most types of electronics including TVs, computer monitors, DVD players, printers, copiers, VCRs, laptops and computers. The fee for a large multi-function copier/printer is $33.75. For details go to http://www.cityofredding.org/departments/solid-waste/special-waste/electronic-waste
Before you get rid of a gadget make sure to wipe it clean of all your data.
For computers and laptops, use a program that writes over the area where your files were stored. File Shredder (www.fileshredder.org) works for Windows users. Apple offers Mac users a wipe feature built into the Disc Utility menu.
For mobile devices, look for the “restore factory default settings” option. This will overwrite all the apps you’ve installed and any data you’ve stored on the device. Android users, enable “encrypt phone” option found in the settings menu before restoring the phone or tablet. Newer iPhone and iOS mobile devices encrypt data on the device automatically, but you should still restore to factory settings before sending it on its way.
Happy Earth Day!
Nerd Chick Adventures is written by Andrea Eldridge and Heather Neal from Nerds On Call, an onsite computer and laptop repair company in Redding. Email them at email@example.com. Go to https://callnerds.com/.
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