While many companies offer recycling services at a cost, more are beginning to provide free recycling of electronics waste, or e-waste as it is sometimes called. The most common definition for e-waste is any electronics device which is being sold, donated, or discarded for the purpose of reuse, salvage, recycling, or disposal.
The reason a growing majority of companies are offering free recycling of electronics is that used electronics equipment, such as televisions, cell phones, digital cameras, and computers presents a hazard to our environment. Many of the materials used to make the components in such devices, such as mercury and toxic chemicals, are hazardous to personal health as well as the environment. Should electronics equipment end up in our landfills, these substances leach into the soil and when they are crushed or melted, the released fumes are quite toxic. Free recycling of electronics is therefore very important.
While many consumers realize the need for recycling and proper disposal of e-waste, most are unwilling to pay for doing so. Some corporations which manufacture these products will do so for $20 per device, but a growing number are offering to do so for free, or even providing a discount on new purchases in exchange for used equipment. Unfortunately, there are restrictions on such programs. Companies like Sony will take in old devices but only of their brand and place a limit of five such items per day which can be turned in. The number of facilities where equipment can be returned is quite small, as well.
Hazardous Waste or Commodity?
Many states are considering legislation which regulates disposal of e-waste; only a few, such as California, Arkansas, and Maine, have actually implemented such laws. Part of the problem in deciding how to word such legislation is the debate between whether used and outdated electronics are categorized as ‘waste’ or ‘commodities’.
Because so much of the metals used in computers and other equipment, such as copper, gold, silver, and even platinum can be extracted and recycled, categorizing e-waste as a commodity means it can be refurbished. Many foreign manufacturers resist this categorization as it allows for other companies to reuse their components and resell it as a refurbished device thereby cutting into their profits.
Most agree that the best solution to the problem of excessive e-waste is to offer free recycling of electronics. Consumers are more likely to recycle their devices if they can do so for free. This prevents hazardous waste from ending up in landfills. Facilities which gather and transport electronics devices to recycling centers can make a profit by selling the reusable components. Recycling entities can turn unwanted and outdated equipment into new products. Free recycling of electronics results in a win-win situation for all involved.