The intern “station” at gap intelligence is more or less a mobile unit.  In fact, it has already moved twice in the three months that I’ve been here.  Don’t get me wrong – I enjoy the change of scenery.  The new locale even boasts a window view.  On the desk to my right is a slightly less visually appealing pile of out-of-commission monitors, keyboards, PC towers, and the like (although it certainly could be worse).  We have affectionately dubbed it “The Computer Graveyard.”

One day, while working a “Graveyard” shift, I started thinking about our little collection.  All jokes aside, think about how quickly we find electronic equipment obsolete and how much stuff we accumulate because of that.  For instance, if you had to count how many electronic devices you own, how many do you think it would be?  Of course we all instantly think of the essentials – our cell phones, computers, and televisions.  But what about everything else?  Not counting household appliances, I can list around twenty separate pieces of electronic equipment in my home (that’s not even counting the miscellaneous cord drawer).  And at least six of those are either broken or outdated and not being used – or in other words, they’re electronic waste (e-waste).  Home gaming systems, landline phones, printers, fax and copy machines, laptops, keyboards, speakers, VHS, DVD, and Blu-ray players… the list goes on.  Once these items are junk, they are considered e-waste.

Electronics probably have the highest turnover rates out of any consumer products, yet they’re some of the most difficult to recycle properly.  These days, most of us are aware that the electronics we use in our homes every day are filled with toxins like lead and mercury.  You may have even seen disheartening images of poor children overseas rummaging through e-waste landfills for salvageable materials to sell.  What you might not know is that many of the companies in the United States that call themselves “recyclers” are still just shipping that waste to poorer countries with less regulation on hazardous waste disposal.

Recycling is becoming an everyday practice for more and more of us all the time.  Most of us have public recycling available for curbside pickup, although electronics are generally prohibited.  If you work in an office, your company probably participates in some sort of e-waste recycling program.  It’s pretty much standard procedure (and in most cases, mandatory) for businesses to do so.  But how much do you really know about what happens to those electronics?  And consumers are still responsible for generating the greatest amount of e-waste, but they don’t exactly make it easy for us “little people” to recycle old electronics.  But, there are places that will accept many of your household electronics for free, or even pay you for them!  You just have to know what’s out there.  Thankfully, if you’re able to read this blog, then you’re also able to access the websites that can hook you up with programs in your area.  Check out some of these links to get started.  If you don’t find what you’re looking for, search, baby, search!

Digital Tips recycling links:

The Daily Green’s electronics recycling how-to guide:

Electronics Recyclers International, an innovative company that’s doing it the right way:

Written by Adrienne Akre