I am taking a quick blogging break this week and am pleased to offer you a guest post on this timely subject.
Consumers can repurpose many items that are no longer needed. Plastic food containers and glass beverage containers can easily be repurposed into storage for other materials. Most repurposed items fill a secondary use that is similar to the original use. Under these conditions, repurposing is not difficult.
Photo credit: Jeff Myers
However, the repurposing of high-tech gear, which is often called e-waste, is not so easy. An old television is almost useless for any other purpose. In 2000, U.S. consumers sent more than 4.6 million tons of e-waste to landfills. Most electronics contain small quantities of toxic materials in the semiconductors and batteries. When these materials are placed into a landfill, they can leach toxins over time. The risk always exists for landfills to contaminate surrounding soils and groundwater.
Sometimes e-wastes are incinerated. This disposal technique is even worse than burying the devices in a landfill. When electronics are burned, they release heavy metals and other toxins that can enter the food chain and accumulate in living tissue.
New life for old gadgets
Before disposing of your old electronics, consider repurposing them. The best way to repurpose any high-tech gadget is to increase its useful lifespan. This is difficult, because high-tech quickly becomes outdated. Consumers want to replace old devices with smaller, faster and more powerful counterparts, and often, older technology will not be able to perform anywhere near the same tasks. A common solution is to send the outdated equipment to developing nations. This approach definitely increases the life cycle of the products, but it also creates a new problem. Developing nations are unlikely to have appropriate hazardous waste facilities for e-waste, and the equipment may pose a greater environmental threat in these areas when it ultimately stops working.
Many organizations within the U.S. direct old computers, televisions, cell phones and other electronic devices to areas of poverty within our own country. The devices are provided to people who could otherwise not afford them, and they can be properly disposed of when they cease to function.
Schools and training facilities are ideal repurposing points for electronic devices. In these organizations, the useful life of the devices is extended for their intended purpose. They often are then used to teach repair techniques when they stop working. Many states have e-waste recycling programs that assist in the identification of organizations that repurpose or recycle electronic devices.
Photo credit: epSos.de
All good things must come to an end
The time ultimately comes when electronics no longer function. It is usually cheaper to replace them than to repair them, and this is why so much e-waste ends up in landfills. There are, however, better methods of disposal.
Many electronic devices contain parts that can be reused after the device as a whole stops working. Consumers should search for organizations that recycle electronics rather than simply throwing them away. Many retailers accept old products when new ones are purchased and send the old products to specialized recycling organizations.
Many communities offer periodic collections of electronic wastes. By using these special collections, consumers can ensure that e-wastes are disposed of properly and do not simply become buried in a landfill.
Jennifer asks: How do you dispose of e-waste? I use my electronics as long as they function to minimize waste. My cell phone is now over six years old!
Andrew is a Community Coordinator who helps people find parts from ApplianceHelp. He’s passionate about DIY, whether it be in tech, food, or brewing.