Free e-waste recycling sounds like a great way to get rid of your extra junk, but there are quite a few unseen dangers lurking under the surface of these seemingly helpful services.
While you might be desperate to get rid of your old phones, computers, and televisions, data thieves are equally desperate to get their hands on them. Even if you take steps to protect your information, there's still a chance that you could be putting yourself and the environment in jeopardy.
If you're holding onto your electronics, here's what you need to know before contacting an e-waste recycling service.
The Risks of Data Thievery
Your busted smartphone and unhinged laptop might seem like unusable trash, but that doesn't mean that they don’t have value. In fact, your data and personal information might be the most valuable thing about them.
While there's money to be made in recycling the actual materials from your electronic devices, many entrepreneurs hosting “free e-waste recycling” events make their profit selling something else entirely. They're after what they can leech off your personal information, and if they're particularly tech-savvy, wiping your hard-drive isn't enough to stop them.
Identity theft is a serious risk, among other privacy-related nightmares. While taking a hammer to your hard-drive is one way to eliminate the threat of data theft, it's not enough to completely escape the harmful effects of e-waste scammers.
Knowing what to do before recycling electronics can go a long way.
To protect yourself and those around you, you have to make sure that your old devices don't end up in the wrong hands. Data thievery is just one way that irresponsible e-waste services mishandle your electronics. The wellbeing of the environment and those in developing countries is also a concern.
The Ecological Impact of E-Waste
Most electronics aren't designed to be easily recycled. This is a significant pitfall of modern design, but responsible e-waste companies have learned to work around it. However, properly recycling these items can be expensive, and many other businesses have chosen to take shortcuts.
These shortcuts usually involve exporting the e-waste to developing countries like China, Vietnam, India, and others. Once there, workers dismantle and burn away the plastic to expose the valuable metals inside. This process not only damages the environment but also puts these low-wage workers in danger.
According to the PRB, or the Population Reference Bureau, open-air burning can cause harmful particulates to enter the air, resulting in cardiovascular and pulmonary disease. Many children and adults in these areas are at risk for lead poisoning and respiratory problems. In fact, 80% of children in the e-waste recycling community of Guiyu, China suffer from respiratory issues.
Because hard metals aren't biodegradable, they linger in the soil, allowing the chances of human exposure to rise exponentially. As planned obsolescence and the replacement of electronics becomes more prevalent, more and more e-waste will enter the environment, exacerbating this issue.
The only surefire way to prevent your e-waste from ending up in the environment is to choose your electronic recycling service wisely.
Free E-Waste Recycling Events: Watch Out For These Red Flags
Not every free e-waste recycling program is untrustworthy. Many are sponsored by towns or local businesses and may even have charitable roots. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t exercise caution when your personally identifying information is on the line, however.
Outside of sponsored events, you will also encounter e-waste recycling services offering free pick up at your home and even some who will pay you for your old devices. You’re right to be cautious when considering these services—they may have murky business practices that could put your data in harm’s way.
If you're not sure about an e-waste recycling event or service, keep an eye out for some of these common red flags.
Before selecting an e-waste service, you can make a quick judgment of what they tell you. Many e-waste scams use certain phrases to earn your trust and convince you of their reliability. While this doesn't always mean that they're going to use your electronics for evil, you should take their claims with a grain of salt.
Here are some typical reassurances, and what they might actually mean.
- "Your electronics won't end up in a landfill." Good news, but that doesn't mean they won't end up in a developing country.
- "We follow all laws and regulations." There are no laws and regulations against exporting e-waste to foreign countries.
- "We'll provide you with a certificate." Certificates are easy to print and easier to forge. That piece of paper doesn't necessarily mean that your electronics will be handled safely and responsibly.
- "We only export commodities." What is their definition of commodities? There's no guarantee that they're not exporting harmful materials to developing countries.
- "We're certified." Certification is a tricky thing when it comes to e-waste. Because the laws and regulations are lax, there's a lot of wiggle room for companies that export.
- "We're free." This is the biggest red flag of all. Electronics recycling is expensive, and somebody has to pay for it. Far too often it turns out that when you’re not the source of the profit, it’s because you’re the product.
As mentioned above, companies that make these promises aren't all boogeymen—but that doesn't mean you should skip the necessary steps to ensure you’re trusting your data to the right people.
While it might seem like a hassle, you'll be one less person contributing to the tons of e-waste polluting our environment. Until laws are put in place to prevent the exportation of e-waste the exploitation of workers, it's up to you to hand off your electronics responsibly.
Finding An E-Waste Removal Team You Can Trust
After destroying your hard-drive, you might be hard-pressed to find an e-waste removal team worth their salt. Luckily, you have options. Many removal teams have dedicated themselves to providing ecologically friendly, affordable electronic recycling.
Junk King is one of these services. Once you've booked a visit, we'll give you a call and coordinate our arrival at your home or business. From there, we'll give you an estimate and haul away your junk, e-waste and all. Up to 60% of the junk we collect goes on to be reused, recycled, or donated.
If your old electronics are piling up in your closet or drawers, Junk King can make sure that they get disposed of properly. Take a look at everything we can haul away for you.
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).