Spring Cleaning? Ways to Recycle E-Waste

If the onset of warmer temperatures and longer days is inspiring you to do some spring cleaning, you may be wondering what to do with some of those old electronics that are collecting dust, often broken, or difficult to donate.

Spring Cleaning? Ways to Recycle E-Waste
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As technology continues to evolve, we may find ourselves with a collection of older versions of headphones, cables, cell phone chargers, remotes, cell phones, baby monitors, or even larger obsolete electronics. I have some tips for preventing electronics waste (e-waste) and extending their lifecycle to support a circular economy, and also ways to recycle these items if they are past their prime. 

Spring Cleaning? Ways to Recycle E-Waste

Prevent e-waste in the first place

Before you head to the recycling site, check to see if the item still works. Connect chargers, replace batteries, and plug-in larger electronics to see if they have some life left. At least in my house, smaller electronics like chargers, headphones, and remotes tend to disappear. Once you have verified that they power on, experiment by connecting them to your devices to see if you have found some valuable backups. Grab some painter’s tape and label those cords and devices! 

Give electronics a new life

If you find functional electronics during your clean-up that you no longer need for your current devices, consider passing them on for reuse. Your local schools, domestic shelters, and donation centers will usually take old electronics like headphones, televisions, computer monitors and mice, DVD players, and similar items. You could also try posting on your neighborhood social media page to see if anyone can take these items off of your hands. You would be surprised how many people have a use for electronics, even outdated ones. There are also buyers of damaged electronics on eBay, so you can even make a little money and help out the environment by keeping things in circulation longer. 

Recycle unusable electronics and batteries

Some items have simply come to the end of their usable life. You may ask, “Why can’t I just toss these items out with our household trash?” Great question. Electronics are typically made from plastics, metal, and glass, which are valuable materials that take energy to produce. When we reuse or recycle these items, we are conserving these resources and reducing the pollution emitted into the environment by producing more of these materials. 

Many of our household items, including children’s toys, household appliances, power tools, wireless headphones, and more, contain batteries. While batteries are essential to power the things we need, it is important to dispose of them with care for a few reasons. First, materials inside of certain batteries, like lithium-ion, can be hazardous from a safety perspective. If they are disposed of incorrectly and subject to improper conditions and temperatures, they could be a fire hazard to waste workers, as well as a health hazard if fumes are inhaled. Secondly, lithium-ion batteries, in particular, are made from valuable non-renewable natural resources that we need to conserve. If these batteries are discarded, we lose the resources together versus extracting those materials to make new batteries or other items. 

Check out these websites for electronics and battery recycling. Enter your zip code and items to recycle to see what options are closest to you. 

Hard to recycle items

Some items aren’t suitable for donation or disposal at standard or e-waste recycling sites. Broken mattresses and box springs, household paint and chemicals, lightbulbs, appliances, textiles, metals, and many others fall into this category. 

The Center for Hard to Recycle Materials (CHARM) is a premier program of the non-profit Live Thrive, which was founded due to the lack of options for recycling materials that standard recycling companies wouldn’t accept. They accept a variety of household items that you may not have even thought were recyclable (by appointment only).  

Counties and cities around Atlanta often offer special recycling days for those challenging to recycle items. Here are a few upcoming. Not all dates are released yet, so check back often.

Are there recycling events we missed? Comment below!

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Tara Sierra
Tara was raised in Atlanta and graduated from the University of Georgia with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism. She is taking a break from the corporate world to focus on raising her children, along with caring for her aging parents and volunteering. She enjoys sharing ideas on wellness, sustainability, staying engaged during a career break, and preserving family memories. Tara and her husband spent years traveling the world before kids, and plan to continue the tradition with them. When she squeezes in some free time, you might find her practicing yoga, writing, reading, or curating family photo books.