Disposing of your electronics is a major issue in today’s climate of environmental responsibility. In years past, an old television or desktop computer could be placed at the curb for waste management pickup, but those days are gone as scientists and engineers have recognized the detrimental impact unregulated electronic waste (e-waste) is having on the environment. It is important to know the proper way to dispose of old electronic devices, especially in Pennsylvania with its laws regarding covered electronic devices.
Why You Should Dispose of Electronics Responsibly
According to Statista, e-waste has become the fastest growing type of waste in the world with screens alone accounting for 6.6 million metric tons. In a United Nations report on e-waste, it was stated that in 2016 there was 44.7 million metric tons of e-waste generated in the world and an estimated 80% of that waste was not disposed of properly.
Electronic waste that is not separated from landfill trash can be dangerous as heavy metals, toxic substances, and volatile organic chemicals begin to leach out into the environment. Modern electronics may seem sleek and safe, but inside of these devices, there are countless components that are often manufactured from dangerous materials. As long as these materials remain inside their respective components, there is no danger. Once they begin to interact with the environment, however, serious problems can develop. For example, if these devices are left to lie in landfills, the resulting e-waste can generate toxic gases and will lead to heavy metals like lead and cadmium leaching into the surrounding soil.
Careless disposal of e-waste may not harm us, but it will eventually harm the generations that follow us. It is our responsibility to dispose of electronics in a way that will minimize their negative impact on the environment and help us preserve the world for future generations. Fortunately there are ways of recycling electronics that will not damage the environment or pose potential health threats to those active in the recycling process.
Pennsylvania Law: Covered Device Recycling Act
The state of Pennsylvania has tried to mitigate its own e-waste impact on the environment through the Covered Device Recycling Act (CDRA), which is law for Pennsylvania residents. One aspect of this law forbids the disposal of covered devices unless submitted to a manufacturer collection site or an approved recycling site that accepts them (and not all recycling sites do). Covered devices include desktop and laptop computers, monitors and televisions (including CRT, LCD, plasma, and LED models), keyboards, printers, external hard drives, and similar peripheral devices.
And while it is illegal to send any of these covered devices to a landfill site, there just are not many options for disposing of old electronics. Many manufacturer sites will only accept working electronics, and donation centers like Goodwill have stopped accepting donations of items such as TVs.
How to Recycle Electronics
The state of Pennsylvania provides electronics recycling collection programs and facilities, and curbside pickup for these devices may be available in some areas. If you cannot find a solution, then you are advised to hang onto your devices until you can find a place to recycle them — or until the law changes. This may not be a major issue for most families, but it can have a major impact on businesses.
Businesses that have an abundance of old electronics to be disposed of may encounter some logistical issues in getting them to an appropriate recycling center. It may be possible to donate the electronics, but it may take some digging to find a welcome home for them, especially if the devices don’t work. If a business does not have an immediate recycling solution at hand, then they must find a way to store these devices, and storage space for outdated electronics can seem like a waste of money.
Outside of Pennsylvania, while recycling of electronics may not be a legal issue, it remains a moral and environmental issue. A quick web search can help you find options for your outdated equipment, from donating it to a thrift store, returning it to the manufacturer, or finding an electronics recycling center near you.
Trying to dispose of old televisions, computer monitors, laptops, external hard drives, tablets, keyboards, and similar items is not an easy task in Pennsylvania since the CDRA was made into law. Covered devices such as those just described cannot be disposed of as part of standard municipal waste; rather, they must be recycled or given a new home — both of which are becoming increasingly difficult to arrange. This is especially challenging to businesses that are in the process of upgrading hardware and peripherals, and there is no immediate solution to the difficulties in sight. However, there remain three basic options: donating the electronics, locating a manufacturer recycling facility, or finding an electronics recycling facility that will accept them.
At ITSG, we provide a variety of IT support services ranging from total care IT management to infrastructure wiring — and we understand your pain when it comes to disposing of old electronics. ITSG has a long history of green initiatives and environmental consciousness, and that includes finding ways to keep your electronics from being relegated to the landfill. We can help you get the maximum life out of your electronics and can help you find options for recycling once that life has been exhausted. Contact us today to find out how we can help you stay green!