Electronic recycling is a responsible and necessary approach that can help to curb what many are calling an e-waste crisis in the United States. Our e-waste problem is just a small part of a much larger recycling crisis that won’t be resolved with blue bins and bottle collection alone, however. As more and more countries refuse to accept our e-waste and other recyclables, Americans are finding that reducing our impact on the environment begins long before we bring the trash to the curb.
Our Relationship With Recycling
The EPA has been collecting recycling and waste disposal data for over thirty years. While recycling wasn’t quick to catch on, the numbers show that over the years, more and more Americans have embraced the practice that helps to conserve resources, reduce waste, and minimize the impact we have on the environment. According to the EPA’s figures, in 1960, just over 6% of the waste we generated was recycled compared to 34% in 2015. However, we are also producing more waste than we have in the past, nearly tripling our trash generation. A look at the same period shows an increase from 88.1 million tons of trash produced in 1960 to 262.4 million tons in 2015.
Much of our recycling effort relied on sending our recyclable goods to other countries, such as China, where it could be recycled and repurposed into new goods. However, in 2017 China banned imports of certain scrap materials. Without a market for these newly-banned products, towns across the US have had to grapple with the question of what to do with the recycling that keeps piling up, with some suspending recycling programs altogether until a new solution is found.
Where Our Recycling Goes Now
Americans consume a lot; there’s no denying it. For many of us, the bottled water we buy on our daily lunch break doesn’t look like it’s causing a crisis. When it’s empty, we’ll drop it in a recycling bin and find comfort in the thought that our efforts have reduced harm. In many municipalities across the country, city- and county-wide recycling programs have ceased. With nowhere for recyclable materials to go, these daily bottles of water and other household and e-waste items are anything but harmless. Plastics may end up incinerated or in landfills or may be added to an ever-growing pile of recyclables-in-limbo until a new solution is found.
A Mindful Approach to Electronic Recycling
Consumers who are seeking new ways to reduce their footprint are leading the call for an approach to recycling that starts at the cash register rather than the trash receptacle. San Francisco, which leads the US in recycling, has sought to go beyond the familiar “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” methodology, and encourages consumers to “REFUSE, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.” By refusing to purchase products that contain materials that are difficult to or cannot be recycled, consumers can lead the charge and create a marketplace that seeks to reduce environmental harm in its materials sourcing, production, and packaging.
There are other things that all consumers can do to help reduce the amount of trash that we generate, including the amount of e-waste:
Shop Mindfully & Buy Refurbished Items
Online shopping has made it easier than ever to browse, click, and buy new things without ever leaving our homes. Knowing that we can donate or recycle our slightly used (or even unused) items, our rapid accumulation and replacement patterns seem harmless on the surface. And, while electronics tend to come with a significant price tag, our phones, tablets, and laptops are frequently set aside for the latest model.
Much of our e-waste is still being shipped to developing nations where it can be sorted and disassembled, which is having ill effects on the health of workers and the local environments. If your electronics are still working, there’s no reason to replace them--even if the newest model does come in your favorite color. The biggest environmental impact of our electronics consumption pace comes from manufacturing new items. Recycling our old electronic devices only addresses the challenges of disposal--to have the most significant impact, we should buy refurbished electronics instead of new whenever possible.
Return Those Impulse Buys
We’ve all been there--you’re scrolling through Amazon to pass the time, and you see a gadget that could solve so many small problems that only a madman wouldn’t buy it. Two days later, because you are not a madman, it arrives on your doorstep. After you open the package and start to flip through the user manual, you realize you’ll need just a bit more time and set it aside, thinking, “I’ll set this up later.” Will you?
Often, these impulse buys seem like great ideas when we buy them, and we experience a second rush of excitement when they arrive. Whether they live up to the hype in our heads is a coin toss, however. If you find yourself on the hype-less end of an impulse purchase, send it back! Returning items that you bought online can seem like too much of a hassle, which is why many of us keep things we might not otherwise want or need. Many return policies are designed to be painless, and will even arrange the pick-up and provide you with the return packaging.
Reuse and Repurpose Older Items
Old electronics may no longer be serving their original purpose, but that doesn’t mean they can’t serve another. While items that no longer power on or which are broken beyond repair will find a better home in the hands of an ethical electronics recycling company, those which still hold a charge and function can serve a whole host of other functions.
Find out how to reuse your old phone in our guide to electronic disposal alternatives here <Link to Future Blog 261>, or get ideas for giving old laptops and computer equipment new life here <Link to Future Blog 262>.
When it’s Time, Recycle
When there’s no life left in your electronic devices, recycling is the obvious (and necessary) choice for disposing of your e-waste. In many states, e-waste recycling isn’t just an option; it’s mandatory. Consumers who fail to follow these laws could end up regretting it--not only will they do real and lasting damage to the environment, but they could be fined or find themselves responsible for just the type of disasters that e-waste recycling avoids.
Call in the Pros for Electronic Recycling
When it’s time to let go of your old devices, call Junk King for your electronic recycling. Our reliable and professional e-waste removal team is fully insured and provides you with an easy and eco-friendly way to dispose of e-waste.
We’ll call 15 minutes before we arrive at your office or home and, once we get there, will provide you with a free and transparent estimate to haul your old electronics other junk. We inspect each item to determine the best disposal method, and 60% of what we pick up goes on to be recycled, reused, or donated.
Ready to get rid of that junk? It’s as simple as 1, 2, 3.
You can make an appointment by booking online above or by calling 1.888.888.JUNK (5865).