Americans discard more than 2 million tons of obsolete electronics every year. These electronics pose an environmental hazard if not disposed of properly. Local experts advise consumers on how to sell, give away, recycle or throw out used computers and other electronic gadgetry.
When Santa leaves a new laptop or cellphone under the tree, many folks are stumped over what to do with their outdated model.
“I’d say about 90 percent of consumers don’t know they can recycle their old electronics,” said Stephen Robinson, owner of Alliance Computer Exchange. “And they don’t realize that when they set it out in the trash, they are contaminating the earth.”
According to Josh Singer at the EPA, some components inside electronic devices pose an environmental risk if disposed of improperly.
“Some substances could be harmful, especially lead and mercury,” Singer said.
The average American household has more than 20 electronic products, according to www.epa.gov, and we discard more than 2 million tons of obsolete electronics every year.
Robinson said his company at 67 W. Vine St. in Alliance recycles “just about anything with a plug,” from routers and paper shredders to dehumidifiers and alarm clocks.
“We’re keeping tons and tons of stuff out of the landfill, and we’ve got seven employees making a living off it,” Robinson said. “We’re doing a modern form of mining. Our steel ends up at Republic Steel or Timken roller bearing.”
Tossing outdated electronics in the trash is not only harmful to the environment, it’s also a lost opportunity to make some money.
If your used gadget is still working and in good shape, you might be able to sell it. Start with a classified ad in this newspaper, on Craig’s List, or eBay. To find out what your device is worth, check out www.gazelle.com.
Some retail stores, including Radio Shack, will let you trade up, and apply the value of selected old devices toward the purchase of a new one. Other stores, including Target and Best Buy, offer a store gift card for the value of your old device.
Go to www.bestbuy.com to look up the estimated value for your device. They’ll ask a couple questions, including whether it’s in good, fair or poor condition. But don’t get your hopes up for a windfall — many old electronics are worth very little, even zero.
If that’s the case, then you might want to head to Alliance Computer Exchange (www.alliancecomputerexchange.com), where Robinson pays by the pound.
“For most things we pay 3 cents a pound,” he said. “A computer weighs about 20 pounds, so it takes a lot of stuff to make money. But for schools and businesses, it can add up, and we issue a certificate of disposal that we’ve disposed of it correctly.”
Best Buy accepts old consumer electronics, no matter what brand or where they were purchased, and recycles them at no charge to consumers. They accept hundreds of items, including video game consoles, digital cameras, most TVs, DVD players and household appliances. For a complete list, visit their website, scroll to the bottom, click on “Product Support,” then click on “Recycyling.”
Page 2 of 2 - Radio Shack recycles used cellphones and rechargeable batteries through the Call 2 Recycle program. Go to www.call2recycle.org to see a map of the 20 participating Stark County sites.
Some manufacturers, including Apple, have voluntary “take back” programs in place. The consumer can mail the device to the company or drop it at a store for recycling. For a list of participating companies, go to www.electronicstakeback.com.
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Singer at the EPA said recycling saves energy and prevents pollution that would result from mining new materials, but the best option, when possible, is to give the device a second life.
“If it’s still working, the best thing to do is reuse — then nothing is going into the landfill,” Singer said.
You can give your computer or other device to a person in need, or donate it to a school or charity. For help finding a recipient, check out The National Cristina Foundation at www.cristina.org.
Sarah Hayden of United Way of Greater Stark said they often get calls from people wishing to donate.
“We don’t have a program, but we can refer them. For cellphones, Verizon donates (used phones) to domestic violence programs,” Hayden said. “For computers and laptops, Goodwill has a fantastic refurbishing program. My husband and I cleaned out a home office and took everything there — computer, copier, fax machine. They were delighted.”
Dell computers, through its Dell Reconnect program, has partnered with Goodwill to recycle used computer equipment in many communities (dellreconnect.com). The closest participating Goodwill, according to the site, is at 1500 Canton Road, in Summit County.
In Stark County, Goodwill administers a similar program called Computers Again. Tyler Drake said they accept fully functional or broken computers.
“If it doesn’t work, we recycle it for parts,” Drake said. “If it’s functional, we wipe off the data, make simple repairs or clean it up, load a brand new copy of Windows and sell it to low income families in the community.”
Drake said they also accept printers, phones, speakers and other equipment. Donors can drop the equipment at the Jackson Township Recycling Station, 5717 Wales Ave. NW, or any area Goodwill location.