Written by: Eliza Letteney
Consume Less, Fix What You Have, Pass Used Equipment on to Others
Most of us carry cell phones and use technology daily if not hourly. But once equipment breaks or becomes dated, what is the best way to dispose of e-waste? Why should we properly recycle it, and let's be real, where does it go?
What To Do With E-Waste?
In Wellesley you can recycle old televisions, cell phones, computers, monitors, and other appliances at the Wellesley Recycling & Disposal Facility. These recycled devices are picked up by a contractor hired through the Northeast Resource Recovery Association (NRRA) – a nonprofit that helps communities manage their own recycling programs – and “stripped for components.”
Other local options include free recycling programs at Apple, Microsoft, and Amazon. When you drop it off, ask where products end up after you drop them off.
Why Renew, Reuse or Recycle?
Electronic waste is the fastest growing waste stream in the world. Between 2015-2020 global electronic waste increased 21 percent to 53.6 million metric tons, according to the United Nations Global E-Waste Monitor, and in 2019 less than 20 percent was recycled or reused meaning that most ends up in landfills or is burned.
The Basel Action Network (an e-waste watchdog group based in Seattle) partnered with MIT to find that “recycled” electronics often end up in landfills across the world, in counties in South and Central America, Asia, and Africa. Some recycling facilities overseas extract precious metals from devices by burning plastics and, in doing so, pollute the environment with dioxins, a cancer-causing chemical with disastrous ramifications for both human life and nature. Some attribute the rise in e-waste to the difficulty of recycling the complex plastics in electronics (laced with metals, chemicals, and flame retardant) as well as the cultural acceptance of buying newer, sleeker models and discarding still-functioning devices..
While we wouldn’t want to discourage you from recycling, the goal here is to recognize that recycling e-waste is not a perfect solution. It may be more helpful, instead, to refrain from buying new devices in situations where repairs are possible. For those looking to fix or improve their devices, Wellesley has some great local options.
Wellesley resident Eric Pinsker-Smith fixes electronics and also conducts small engine and automotive repairs. He began his company, Just Ask Eric, in August of 2021 and specializes in tricky diagnostics. Whether you have a busted snowblower or glitchy computer, Pinsker-Smith is a great local resource. Other local businesses like Cellaxs Phone Repair in the Natick Mall provide options for those looking to repair not replace.
Keep in mind that often tech issues that seem insurmountable can be overcome. It just takes a change in mindset to consider seeking out service when we would otherwise call it a day and find a replacement. Keeping devices longer and managing individual contributions to the global e-waste problem can make a difference as consumers await development of sustainable tech solutions.
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One last thought, if you are replacing a phone or other tech product that still works, consider deleting the data and donating the item to a local charity or to larger organizations like these: Medic Mobile, to support community health workers around the world; Cell Phones for Soldiers, to provide service to active duty military members and veterans. Think twice before tossing something that can make a difference.