ASK EARTHA: E-Waste Recycling
Dear Eartha, I have a bunch of electronics on my Black Friday shopping list, and I am wondering what I should do with my old ones?
Although Black Friday may look a little different this year because of Covid-19, it is not going to stop millions of Americans from spending on the biggest shopping holiday. Despite a global pandemic, Black Friday and Cyber Monday are expected to break previous records, with Americans spending almost 150 billion dollars.
New phones and electronic gadgets will make up a large portion of these sales, resulting in old electronics gathering dust. It is important to dispose of your electronics properly, not only because dumping electronics is illegal in Colorado but because they are hazardous to humans and the environment.
What is electronic waste?
Electronic waste, or e-waste, refers to any discarded product with a battery, plug, or circuit board. This includes phones, computers, and TVs that are no longer working or no longer wanted. As gadgets get more sophisticated and advanced, older models are discarded for newer and more popular ones.
Today, electronic devices last little more than a couple of years, making e-waste one of the fastest growing waste streams. In 2019, a world record was set for the most e-waste ever generated, 53.6 million metric tons, according to the UN Environmental Program Report. By 2021, that number is predicted to surpass 57 million tons! What does this mean for the old electronics? Many of them are being discarded as trash, taking up space and wreaking havoc in our landfills – which is why recycling and recovery programs are becoming even more critical.
Why is e-waste a problem?
Less than 20 percent of global e-waste is recycled, meaning that most discarded electronics are sitting in landfills. Electronics look sleek and attractive on the outside, but inside they are comprised of toxic heavy metals and hazardous chemicals such as lead, mercury, and flame retardants. These toxic chemicals can contaminate our soil, water, and air and can cause severe damage to human blood, kidneys, and nervous systems.
Additionally, when electronics are thrown away, we lose out on the chance to recover precious resources such as platinum, gold, and silver. New, or virgin, resources require more mining and drilling, not to mention more greenhouse gas emissions. On the other hand, if we recycle our electronics, we save energy and resources, and pollution is reduced.
How to Recycle Locally
In Summit County, you can recycle electronics free thanks to the Safety First Fund, approved by local voters in 2014. Simply gather your outdated and unwanted electronics and bring them to the Summit County Resource Allocation Park (SCRAP) during their business hours, Monday through Friday, 7am to 3:30pm and Saturday, 7am to 2pm. Common items that are accepted are VCRs, DVD players, computer monitors, laptops, and phones.
Electronic toys, speakers, and items that are mostly plastic or wood are not accepted. Want to know if your item is recyclable? Check out the High Country Conservation Center, at HighCountryConservation.org, which offers an online search tool and a guide for hard-to-recycle items like electronics.
The SCRAP collects the electronics, which are picked up by Electronic Recyclers International (ERI). From there, your old electronic devices are de-manufactured, recycled, and/or refurbished in an environmentally responsible manner. They ensure that e-waste does not end up in landfills or illegally transported to other countries.
For all of you upgrading your phone, computer, or devices this holiday season, make sure you dispose of your old models responsibly. Not only will you be following Colorado state law, but you will also minimize the environmental impact and give old electronics a new life. As always, feel free to reach out to High Country Conservation via call, 970-668-5703, or email, email@example.com, for any of your recycling questions.
Have a safe, happy, and healthy holiday season!