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E-Waste Recycling Options

EDITORS NOTE: The companies highlighted in the aforementioned article are not endorsed by Zero Waste Communities. These companies are mentioned only as many options to choose from when considering electronics recycling.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), for every million cell phones we recycle, 35 thousand pounds of copper, 772 pounds of silver, 75 pounds of gold, and 33 pounds of palladium can be recovered. altStill only 20% of electronic wastes are recovered and recycled. There is so much we can do to help. First and foremost, reduce how much we consume. Is it really that important to have the latest and greatest gadget? If the one you have still works and gives you minimal trouble (we all know how electronics work) then why not keep using it until you need a new one. Reducing how much we consume will not only save resources and money but will extend the life of many the products we will eventually have to manage.

Let's take cell phones for example. The manufacturers of these devices come out with new phones all the time. You see the commercials where people are trying to give their phones away just to get a new one. The people in those commercials probably don't take the phone and recycle it. Maybe just maybe someone picks it up thinking they can get something from it and recycles it. So many vendors will take back electronic products now. Going back to the cell phone example, major phone companies (Verizon, T-Mobile, AT&T and Sprint), electronics stores (Best Buy and Staples), computer and cell phone manufacturers (Dell, LG, Nokia, Samsung) all have take back programs. They may be in stores, through collection events, online, or a mail in program. Check your locale retailer/phone provider for recycling options. Some will even pay you for the device. It may not be much but a credit or gift card helps in the long run. There are also non-profit organizations (Cell Phones for Soldiers, Operation Gratitude, local zoos) that will take your device, recycle it and the money earned is put towards a good cause. There are also non-profit organizations that will take the device, recycle it and any money earned is put towards a good cause.

One thing to note if you do decide it is time to upgrade to the latest and greatest, make sure to delete the data on your device before sending it out. Pick and choose your recycling program wisely. You want to make sure that if they offer you compensation, you will get it. Also, remove the batteries (if you can) and tape the terminal end. A lot of batteries mixed in a container can be dangerous and start fires.

Below are some resources to consider when recycling. There are many other options available so check them out and decide which is best for you.


Extended Producer Responsibility

What is Product Stewardship otherwise known as Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR)?

Product Stewardship is the ability of a product maker to take back materials or items that they have used to produce their product as a way to manage the waste from that product. It is a shift in the mindset to manage products from start to finish.We are no longer looking at materials with a cradle to grave outlook but more as a cradle to cradle outlook. What can we do with these products and waste materials when the consumer is done with them? Companies who take on this responsibility have to look at what markets are there for their products and packaging, how to fund the collection and management of the materials and how the program will function. More and more companies are looking at product stewardship as good business practices.

In California, there is a group that promotes EPR as a way for business to grow in this state. The California Product Stewardship Council ( states that there are several economic benefits to EPR including: "reduced operating costs, creating secondary material markets, reduced disposal costs, energy savings, and the creation of green jobs." Businesses with EPR programs have the option to tailor the program to their own business model. These businesses are even beginning to think outside of the box and looking to their products and packaging to see what they can do to reduce their impact for future products and redesigning them with a reduction of materials already in mind.

As with all programs, there is a cost to managing them. Currently tax payers and garbage rate payers pay the bulk of the cost of managing materials. The EPR system puts the cost back onto the business initially with it passed onto the consumer at the time of the purchase of the product. The systems eventually works out that the consumer pays for the life cycle of that product and may in turn make them think about the products they buy. Consumers are looking for more products with less chemicals, made from recycled content and can be easily managed.

California has several EPR programs already in place including paint, mattresses, electronics, batteries, fluorescent lamps, pharmaceuticals, medical sharps and pesticides. For more information check out the Cal PSC website or the CalRecycle website at

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