Smarter Business: Greening Advisor

 

Proper disposal of batteries, electronics, and hazardous waste

When batteries, thermostats, electronics, oil, and other potentially hazardous wastes are improperly disposed of, they can harm public health and the environment. Batteries and e-waste—such as computers, printers, and cell phones—contain toxic heavy metals such as lead, mercury, and cadmium. When they are thrown away in the trash, they end up in landfills, and these toxic compounds can leach into soil and water, polluting lakes and streams and making them unfit for drinking, swimming, fishing, and supporting wildlife.

Fortunately, there is a solution: returning your used electronics for responsible recycling, rather than throwing them in the trash.

In addition to making sure these wastes are disposed of correctly, where possible, you should purchase less-toxic and reusable products to reduce the amount of potentially hazardous wastes needing disposal. See our Purchasing section for more product purchasing tips.

Know Where It Goes

The key to responsible e-waste recycling is knowing where your stuff will end up. Watch out for any recycler who ships discarded electronics to developing countries for processing. Avoiding sending our garbage overseas saves on greenhouse gas emissions and helps protect workers and the environment in developing countries. According to the Basel Action Network, upwards of 80 percent of the world's e-waste is transported to Asia, and most of it winds up in China. Workers who disassemble consumer electronics by hand are exposed to toxic substances, which also contaminate groundwater.

LOOK FOR E-STEWARDS® CERTIFICATION

Now, the best electronics recyclers are becoming fully certified to the highest environmental and social standard. By choosing an e-Stewards® Recycler, individuals and businesses are choosing the most trustworthy recyclers, ones that have been independently verified to handle e-waste in the most globally responsible way- using safe technologies and careful protections for workers.

e-Stewards Certification is the only marketplace solution supported by the environmental community and responsible electronics recycling companies. It was created to be both principled and practical, and it joins other best-practice certification programs such those by the Marine Stewardship Council and Forest Stewardship Council, as the most protective standard and the most rigorous program for verifying recyclers are doing things right.

No matter where you take your e-waste-to collection events, recyclers, or take-back programs-you should be sure that 100% of the electronic equipment will go only to e-Stewards Recyclers. It's the best way to protect the global ecosystem and human health when it comes to electronics recycling.

Check with the e-Stewards Recyclers in your area about recycling your e-waste. For a list of e-Stewards Recyclers and more about e-Stewards Certification, see www.e-stewards.org.

DONATE OR SELL

Giving away or selling used electronics are great ways to extend their use and keep them out of landfills. Some services provide second-hand computers to schools or nonprofits, so your functional old computer could become a valuable tool for someone in need. Please assure that whomever you donate your used electronics to will use an e-Stewards certified recycler at the electronics' end of life.

You may also want to consider incorporating language into future contracts with suppliers of electronics equipment, specifying that they take back these products at the end of their use for recycling and environmentally responsible disposal.

Additional Resources

Greening Advisor

The Business Plan

The Opportunities

Quick Link

Check with the e-Stewards Recyclers in your area about recycling your e-waste. For a list of e-Stewards Recyclers and more about e-Stewards Certification, see www.e-stewards.org.

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Make sure that batteries and electronic waste are disposed of correctly, and try to purchase less-toxic and reusable products to reduce the amount of potentially hazardous wastes needing disposal.
 

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