Recycle and Reuse Options for Tech Junk
By Nancy Hill on November 06, 2011
This morning I decided I had to rewrite yesterday's Nablopomo post as I finished it late, late, late yesterday and did not tweet or link to it here on BlogHer. As I had to put the effort into a rewrite I decided I mightas well expand the publicity effort far and wide. This is yesterday's post, I'm not counting this rewrite as today's post.
I was trying to decide what to write for Day 5 of Nablopomo and was surfing around researching topics I have on my list to blog about when I remembered Gazelle.com was on my list. I like the concept of other people being able to use something that is still perfectly good but for which I no longer have a use. I have a couple Blackberry cell phones that are perfectly good. They are not touch screen models but they connect to data services and are reliable, good phones and are just losing value are in a bag in storage in a drawer. I decided to check out what Gazelle would offer for them. After going through the easy to follow directions on the site I found out I could get $5.00 a piece for them as long as the site finds the condition to be the same as my assessment of them. It is not much money, but it is more than zero, and if I find some more tech items they will take, it might be worth my time to sell several items to them. I can also choose to donate any money they offer for my phones to a charity. Gazelle.com also will recycle items that cannot be sold however they do not knowingly accept items that cannot be resold.
I checked out some other ways I might be able to responsibly get rid of some tech junk so as to make an informed decision about how to get rid of stuff I simply cannot store any longer. I searched for options in my community, Tucson, AZ, but there are similar options in almost every community in the country. You might have to expand your geographic definition of community a bit to find these services in some more sparsely populated parts of the country, but the services exist. Sometimes offered by merchants and sometimes offered as a local or government service.
I found two retailers that offer tech recycling for items such as cell phones, batteries, mp3 players, and other small tech junk that has recyclable metals: Office Depot and Batteries Plus. Another search turned up Arizona and private company collaboration for various cities on different dates throughout the state a as well as state-wide drives on single days. These events and drives are supported by Westech Recyclers and other tech and recycling firms for the collection and disposal of computer, medical, manufacturing, and electronic equipment.
Each of these options for recycling and reuse has advantages and downsides. If your motivation is sustainability then opting for reuse followed by environmentally responsible recycling is the ideal tech recycling scenario, but you may not have control over the whole process.
If your motivation takes the impact on your pocketbook into account, then the fees that Office Depot charges, according to the size of the box into which the recyclables fit may keep you from using this option. If there are no other options available to you, paying to recycle toxic materials is the sustainable choice. Batteries Plus does not charge for the collection of the items they take for recycling and states, "Our recycling goal is to produce a positive impact on our environment by recovering and recycling more than we sell." Not all tech waste is taken by any single recycler so checking for the particular tech waste restrictions of any collection point is worthwhile. States tend to facilitate the broadest collection but may do so through multiple events.
There are also many options beyond internet sales on sites such as Gazelle.com for tech if you have the motivation and means to place classified ads, check out consignment options, and pawn brokers. Selling your items can allow for the greater use of items before recycling and get you a few dollars in your pocket to boot.
The primary reason for recycling your tech trash is that out of date technology tools contain metals and materials that can be recycled and toxins that should not be burned off or buried to contaminate air, land, or ground water in the recycling process. Recycling that takes place inside the United States is closely regulated, though there are efforts to dismantle these safe guards. The steps to lessen the contamination of the environment or damage the health of the people actually processing the recovery of component parts of tech trash are under federal regulation. There are companies here that to export tech trash to other countries with few environmental restrictions on the handling of toxic materials or regulations concerning worker health and safety standards. Improper disposal is less expensive.
It is always good to ask about the ultimate disposition of an item at a recycling center as the export of tech trash out of the United States is a common, well established process. Often State organized tech recycling programs will try to find a use for items within a state agency or program but if no use can be found, then bulk buyers that fit state criteria will be found and those may or may not be concerned with environmental impact and may not adhere to the standards the state or federal governments require for their materials.
As always nothing is as simple as it seems on the surface, but it is good to know that there are more and more tech trash recycling options for us to choose for the tech trash we create in our daily lives.
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