Image courtesy Curtis Palmer

The life span of consumer electronics is about two to three years. Whether it’s the latest mobile phone, a new computer, or upgrading the TV, electronics are disposable life accessories that come and go. Unfortunately, there’s no Island of Misfit Toys for them to go to and live out their golden years. A lot of those old electronics wind up in landfills, at home and abroad. What you may not know is that many of the components of our devices contain toxic heavy metals like mercury, lead and cadmium. If not properly disposed of, those chemicals build up over time, making their way into the soil and water supply.

The Growth of E-Waste

Estimates vary, but experts expect e-waste to grow a third by 2017, and we only recycle about 30 percent of all e-waste. In 2012, the U.S. alone produced 3.412 million metric tons of e-waste and only about 1 million metric tons gets recycled. The good news is that e-waste recycling is on the rise, growing from 10 percent in 2000 to 29.2 percent in 2012. Helping that trend are the states that have enacted e-waste laws, as well as efforts by organizations like the Electronics Takeback Coalition (ETC). When the time comes to dispose of an electronic device, there are better options than just pitching it in the garbage. So what we can do to help curb the e-waste problem?

5 Things You Can Do with E-Waste

The end of your relationship with a device doesn’t have to be the end of its life. There are several options you have before you think about recycling.

  1. Many businesses now have programs designed to encourage you to return unwanted electronics. Rather than throwing that old iPod away, seek out programs at local stores that have trade-in or disposal programs.
  2. Find uses for those old electronics. While we may want the latest and greatest gadget, our old electronics still have life left in them and can go on to serve another purpose.
  3. There are businesses that will pick up and repair broken electronics, and then donate them to nonprofits or families in need. Seattle-based Interconnection is one such organization.
  4. Your local Goodwill may be a good place to donate old devices.
  5. There are even good options for you DIYers out there who want to take a stab at repairing your own devices. A cracked screen doesn’t have to mean buying a new device.

So the next time you upgrade, consider all the ways you can put that device to use. If the device has reached the end of its life, recycle it properly. Find out where to dispose of electronics in your area. Then, next time you upgrade or your device finally dies, consider where it will end up, and help it find its way to a better place.

By Scott Ellis

Scott Ellis: Host on geekbeat.tv, founder of vsellis.com, and Publisher at Lifestyle Frisco. Connect with Scott on Google+, or twitter @vsellis.