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How to Safely Dump Your Tech Trash

How to Safely Dump Your Tech Trash

Allison Ford | Divine Caroline

November 10, 2010

Doing the Most Good

It’s already illegal to export hazardous electronic waste overseas. U.S. law forbids trading in certain metals, and laws in developing countries forbid importing it.

The Basel Convention, a treaty that took effect in 1992, was ratified by 175 members of the United Nations, who pledged to cease sending hazardous wastes of all kinds to developing nations. However, since local governments in these countries are often corrupt and oversight is poor, the trade continues virtually unabated.

Unfortunately, there’s almost no way to know where your trash will eventually end up after you’ve dropped it off at a recycling center, since even recycling companies that claim to perform their work in the United States have been shown to surreptitiously export it. But if you want to do your part to keep your trash from becoming someone else’s problem, there are steps you can take to be sure it’s used or disposed of properly.

Donate instead. If you’ve simply upgraded to a new model and your old phone, computer, or iPod, is still functional, consider donating it to charity. Many nonprofit groups pair needy schools or charities with donated computer equipment, and many groups also donate gently used phones to people in the developing world.

Choose an e-Steward. The Basel Action Network, a watchdog group that polices e-waste and groups that flout international law, maintains a list of companies and organizations that are committed to safe disposal of these dangerous products. Check their website to find a certified e-Steward recycling facility.

Use less. Computers in the United States have an average life span of about four years; iPods and phones are usually replaced after a year or two. Commit to getting the maximum life out of all your electronics by caring for them well in order to decrease the amount of waste in circulation.

Being truly green means more than just dropping off your old printer at the nearest Best Buy. It means learning what happens to that device after you’ve driven away and doing what you can to make sure that it’s handled in the most responsible way possible. E-waste is the largest growing segment of trash generated in America today; we all have to do our part to stop it from reaching the shores of those less fortunate.

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