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Recycling is easily the most recognizable of all environmental programs and they most adopted.  In 2007, a Harris Interactive poll reported that 77% of Americans recycle at home (that still leaves a large 23% to convert to recycling).   Recycling takes materials that otherwise would have been discarded and creates new products out of them. For example, plastic drinking bottles are turned into benches and reusable shopping bags.

The familiar “chasing arrow” symbol is used to represent the recycling process.


•    Top Arrow - represents consumers placing recyclables in recycling containers for collection
•    Second Arrow - stands for the reprocessing of collected recyclables into new products
•    Third Arrow - represents consumers “closing the loop” by buying recycled content products.



E-Waste: The Next (Recycling) Frontier

While many Americans are attuned to recycling their plastics, paper, and glass, they have yet to make the jump to recycling their electronics.  When an electronic item is discarded, it is termed e-waste.  E-waste is a serious concern to our environment and our health.  It is critical that we start to see electronics as recyclable.

Electronic equipment contains some pretty nasty stuff in it.  When we send e-waste off to a landfill, that nastiness creeps into our soil and water supply.  Contaminants such as lead, cadmium, beryllium and chemical flame retardants are all found in electronics.

In the United States, while electronic waste represents only 2% of trash in landfills, an estimated 70% of heavy metals in landfills come from discarded electronics. 1

Electronic items are very prone to both “perceived obsolescence” and “planned obsolescence”. In fact, the Consumer Electronics Association has estimated that U.S. households spend an average of $1,400 annually on an average of 24 electronic items. Computers built two years ago are obsolete today. Instead of replacing the one small part that makes the difference, we toss the entire computer. The cell phone you got six months ago has been eclipsed by your new girlfriend’s phone.  Your girlfriend can’t have a better phone than you, so you upgrade.

There are ways to combat e-waste in our landfills including:
•    Purchase your electronics with the mindset of using them until their end of life
•    Don’t care so much about the Joneses
•    If you really must upgrade – consider selling your item to someone who can reuse it – can help you value that item by clicking here ______________
•    Take advantage of “Take Back” programs offered by electronics manufacturers and retailers such as Gateway and Staples
•    Donate your cell phone to be refurbished or given to shelters for battered women
•    Lobby your local, state, and national government to enforce electronic recycling
•    Let manufacturers know that “planned obsolescence” is not going to be tolerated anymore
•    Find an exchange program for electronics you no longer want
•    Recycle your electronics using a legitimate recycling company (one that isn’t just moving e-waste from the U.S. to a third world country)
•    Share your knowledge with your friends, family, and neighbors.  They may not know tossing out their old stereo system is harmful

E-waste recycling can make a huge difference to our environment and our health.  Start you’re your own attitude about electronics … then spread the word.

If you really must upgrade - consider selling your item to someone who can reuse it - can help you value that item by clicking here.

Sources: 1 Silicon Valley Toxic Corporation. "Poison PCs/Toxic TVs Executive Summary; Slade, Giles (2007-04-01). "iWaste". Mother Jones.


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