Oops! Your phone, laptop, or appliance breaks or slows down so you no longer want it. Then what? What’s the best way to discard electronics while minimizing your impact on the environment?

What is e-waste?

E-waste describes electronic products that are no longer useful or that people want to discard.

Items can include things like:

  • Personal technology (phones, computers, laptops, tablets)
  • Household appliances (microwaves, fridges, fans, heaters, stoves, printers, lamps)
  • Entertainment equipment (TVs, DVD players, speakers)

What’s the situation?

As technology evolves, new products are making old electronics obsolete. Electronics can also wear out and break over time. Materials from electronics can be reused, refurbished, or recycled. However, only 15% of e-waste is properly collected and disposed of. According to the EPA, “60 million metric tons of e-waste end up in landfills every year.”

Health & Environment

E-waste often contains toxic materials, including beryllium, cadmium, mercury, and lead. If improperly disposed of, these materials can leach into groundwater, contaminate water supplies, hurt the environment, and cause health problems. On the other hand, recycling materials and reducing e-waste can limit the need for mining new toxic materials needed for electronics. 

Responsible Actions

  • Only throw out your devices or buy new ones when you really need to. Take care of your items so that they last longer.
  • If you do need a new product, look for environmentally friendly ones that use recycled materials.
  • Search for e-waste recycling sites in your local town or city. Many programs may also come pick up your discarded items.
  • Donate items that are still usable.
  • Learn about the “right to repair” and good practices for fixing equipment.