Hello there, and welcome to another pledge in MNN's Nest, an interactive program that helps you create and accomplish easy and Earth-friendly personal goals. With each goal that you tackle, you earn points that are then turned into donations to your favorite nonprofit eco-charity.
This particular challenge is tailor-made for all you gizmo groupies, device devotees and tech-heads out there who spend a fair amount of time — and income — keeping up with the latest electronics trends; those perpetually on the hunt for the bigger, better, thinner, sleeker, faster and, increasingly, more energy-efficient. However, it's a challenge that also applies to more casual consumers who don't necessarily qualify as gadget hounds; folks looking to simply replace an old microwave, cell phone or color printer. It's a goal that's easy enough to complete since it requires just a bit of foresight before making that next E-purchase: instead of throwing away old electronics, I will recycle them before buying new ones.
E-waste in HD: According to Earth911, in 2006 1.5 billion tons of e-waste — including 44 million computers and TVs — was generated in the U.S. alone ... that's more than a couple outdated cell phones and busted DVD players. While all the old gadgets and gizmos you chuck only make up 1 to 4 percent of the municipal waste stream, it's a deadly 1 to 4 percent. Electronics are composted of all sorts of environmentally unsavory substances, toxic heavy metals in particular, that can cause serious eco-harm once in landfills. Toxic heavy metals like lead and mercury can contaminate soil and groundwater supplies and, in turn, not only impact the health of Mother Nature but, down the line, impact the health of you. In total, a whopping 70 percent of all toxic waste in landfills comes from discarded electronics.
Recycle, be rewarded: Take a moment to check out this complete list of e-waste recycling programs — there's more than a couple of options out there. Also remember that stores like Best Buy, Office Depot and other places where you might do much of your electronics shopping provide e-cycling services that tackle small electronics, appliances and office gear for free or for a nominal charge. Some stores like Walmart will even reward you for recycling old electronics with trade-in programs in which you can earn loot like prepaid Walmart Prepaid Visa cards for performing the good green deed. Buying new stuff and recycling it all in fell swoop ... not too shabby, eh?
The e-waste afterlife: So what exactly happens after you recycle old, toxin-filled electronics? Unlike some other forms of waste, e-waste can actually be quite valuable if salvaged correctly. Here's a nifty stat to back that up: by recycling 100 million cell phones, 7,500 pounds of gold could be recovered and reused. Other valuable, recyclable components of e-waste include aluminum, plastic and glass. Generally, the recycled parts of your old gadgets and gizmos are used to make new gadgets and gizmos and sometimes they end up in the most unlikely of places like ... Olympic medals. Other special, charity-driven recycling programs refurbish items like cell phones and donate them to countries in need, like Haiti or various nonprofit organizations.
Sounds easy enough, right? Recycle your i-whatever and keep toxic heavy metals out of landfills, get rewarded and perhaps help someone in need ... it's a win-win situation. Now, do you pledge to recycle, instead of throw away, old electronics before buying new ones?
More personal pledges to consider:
- Once a week, I will walk one place instead of driving.
- I will make my home more energy-efficient.
- I will actually use my reusable bags.
- I will get my kids (and myself!) outside more this year.
- I will do a toxin audit of my home.
- I will support my town's local and green businesses this year.
- I will eat more meals at home.
- I will read three environmentally themed books this year.