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Properly recycling your old electronics

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Posted: Thursday, January 31, 2013 10:48 am

Q: Where can I take my old computers and cell phones to be recycled properly? — Suzanne

A: We need more people to think like you so we can start reducing the amount of toxic waste we are collectively dumping into our landfills.

E-waste is the fastest growing portion of our municipal waste because of our appetite for new shiny electronics and unless we all do the right thing, the environmental impact will be significant.

To provide some perspective, the average U.S. household has 24 electronic gadgets (more like 40 if they have teenagers!) and most are replaced within two to five years.

Every year, the world tosses 20 to 50 million metric tons of old electronics, but less than 20 percent of it is being recycled.

If it plugs in or uses batteries, it likely contains toxins and poisons such as arsenic, barium, lead, mercury, nickel and various plastics that pose health risks to us all.

The impact on our ground water can cause gastrointestinal, neurological and cardiovascular problems that can lead to every type of health issue we all deplore, yet very few people think twice about chucking that old computer into a garbage bin.

There are two ways to properly get rid of your old electronics: repurpose or recycle.

Most people hang onto their old tech so long that by the time they get around to disposing of it, it’s of no value to anyone.

The three years that it sat in the garage or stuffed in a closet, it could have been in service for a needy family or nonprofit organization, especially if it’s a computer.

If you don’t have a church group or local charity that accepts old electronics for repurposing, check to see if the Goodwill store in your area is part of the Dell Reconnect partnership for recycling: http://dellreconnect.com/locations.php .

The Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) has an online resource called E-cycling Central (http://ecyclingcentral.com) that has a list of e-cycling centers by state.

The EPA has a resource that focuses on recycling mobile devices, PCs and televisions via major manufacturers and retailers at http://goo.gl/FP9Q6.

Please remember, if you are disposing of an old computer, the hard drive is likely to contain personal information that you don’t want in the hands of others, so make sure you wipe the drive before getting rid of it.

My previous column with tips on what to do before you get rid of an old computer can be found at http://goo.gl/YKy8j.

If you are recycling or donating an old smartphone, remember it’s also loaded with personal information, so make sure you take a few minutes to wipe it out as well (http://goo.gl/rwbR6).

• Ken Colburn is president of Data Doctors Computer Services and host of the Data Doctors Radio Program, noon Saturdays on KTAR 92.3 FM or at www.datadoctors.com/radio. Readers may send questions to evtrib@datadoctors.com.

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