According to the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), Americans sure love their technology. In recently released data, the CEA reports that the typical household owns 24 different pieces of consumer electronics gear. That includes smartphones (called the "most purchased CE device this year"), computers, tablets, Blu-ray Disc players, digital media players, and, of course, TVs. But with Earth Day just around the corner (it falls on April 22), it's a good time to think a little bit about where all that e-gear goes when the love affair ends and it's time to say goodbye.
Landfills off-limits for electronics gear (or at least they should be)
According to the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) most recent statistics, e-waste -- including TVs, computers, phones, etc. -- make up just one to two percent of the solid waste in landfills. While that might not sound like a lot, the picture changes when you consider the nature of the materials used in making that gear, much of which is highly toxic. That worrisome waste includes lead, mercury, cadmium and more, reports USA Today, which also notes that 17 states have taken steps to ban the disposing of electronics gear in landfills to prevent dangerous substances from contaminating groundwater.
E-Cycling begins to catch on (but maybe not fast enough)
Still, critics complain that the lack of uniform standards and, in most cases, the lack of meaningful enforcement means that e-Cycling is nowhere near as effective as it could be. For example, the CEA's eCycling Leadership Initiative reported on Monday that it had boosted electronics recycling by 53 percent in its first year, collecting 460 million pounds of gear compared to 300 million in 2010. The problem, according to EPA statistics, is that more than 6.6 billion pounds of discarded electronics wound up in landfills in 2010.
But let's not sell the CEA's efforts short here; it's certainly a good first step. So is its establishment of Greener Gadgets, a website designed to help interested consumers buy green technology, and to dispose of gear that they no longer want in a responsible way. Tools include a search engine to direct you to local recycling spots -- including retailers such as Best Buy and Staples -- along with information on what type of products each will accept.
And don't forget, just because you've tossed your old love aside in favor of the latest shiny version -- yes, I'm looking at you, new iPad owners -- it doesn't mean that it can't make someone else just as happy as you once were. We talked about this a bit in an earlier blog post on what to do with an old iPad if you were planning to get a new one, and much of that advice holds true with any piece of still-relevant and still-usable electronics gear. You can pass it on to a friend or relative, donate it to charity, or pocket some cash for yourself by trading it in at retailers including Amazon.com, Best Buy, eBay.com and others.