Getting Rid (Safely) of Holiday E-Waste

This time of year, many of us are happily playing with (or for some of us trying to master the features of) the newest electronic gadget that arrived under the Christmas tree or as a Hannukah gift.  Unfortunately, that may leave us with the dilemma of how to get rid of the old gadget it replaced.  Most of us probably feel intuitively that throwing old electronic equipment like cell phones, TVs, computers and MP3 players – commonly referred to as “e-waste” – into the garbage can’t be right.  And that’s true.  E-waste contains numerous toxic substances, including mercury, lead and cadmium, that can present a health risk when burned in incinerators or improperly disposed of in landfills.  But we don’t know what other alternative we have.


Some states have laws in place to require e-waste recycling, though many of those laws are newly enacted and have yet to be implemented.  (Today, the only states with active e-waste recycling laws are California, Maine and Maryland.  E-waste laws will be coming into effect over the next couple of years in Washington, Oregon, Minnesota, Texas, North Carolina and Connecticut.  And many other states are considering passing such laws.)


But what do you do if you live in a state without an e-waste law currently in effect?  Many municipalities and some non-profit organizations across the country conduct periodic voluntary e-waste collection events where you can bring your discarded electronics for recycling, usually for free.  And an increasing number of manufacturers have “take back” programs, which allow you to send your e-waste back to them for recycling, either at no or little charge.  Some large retailers will also take back e-waste for recycling, generally for a fee.  Another great option is to donate your used electronics - provided they are in good condition - to a charitable organization so they can be put to good use by someone in need.


For more information on what you can do to safely get rid of your holiday e-waste, including helpful links to manufacturers, retailers and charitable organizations that handle e-waste, visit NRDC’s Green Living webpage.


And then you can really enjoy your holiday booty guilt-free!