Pacific Swell | Southern California environment news and trends

The real scoop on recycling your e-waste in California

For most of us, figuring out what to do with our electronic waste is about as fun as a blackout during an earthquake followed by a hurricane. But that jumble of old chargers and cell phones doesn’t have to lurk in your closet corner like some ogre from a fairy tale. It is actually quite easy to recycle your e-waste in the Southland.

In California, it is illegal to throw your old TVs, computers, batteries and more into the trash. E-waste is defined as televisions, computers, laptops, printers, cables, VCRs, cell phones, copiers, fax machines, stereos, and electronic games. If this goes into a landfill, its toxic components go into our water table.

So when it is time to remove formerly-treasured computers, and TVs from your household, ask yourself this question. Is your product still usable? Consider donating it to a needy source like the World Computer Exchange, which provides computers, software, cell phones, LCD projectors and more to organizations around the world.

If your product is unusable, you can find a responsible recycler from e-Stewards who will make sure it is disposed without harm to developing nations. Sometimes, old products are shipped to Africa or China, where they are dismantled without concern for workers and communities absorbing the toxic materials from the products. This leads to a chain of waste containing PVCs, lead, mercury, and solvents, all which poison communities, workers, and ultimately, the planet.

As state law requires that we keep our electronics out of landfills, California has set up its own e-waste program. The Department of Public Works offers e-waste collection events where you can drop off your material. California certifies that the material is deconstructed in an environmentally-safe manner according to state regulation and that it is not sent overseas.

Then there’s Best Buy. The giant chain of electronic stores offers up a substantial electronics recycling program at store locations through a program of responsible recycling. Kristin is a sales associate at the Burbank store. As she explains, “You just bring it right into the store and up to Customer Service. We’ll take it off your hands."

It doesn’t matter if you bought the product from Best Buy. "You can bring computer, monitors, charges, and TVs less than 26 inches, regardless of where your originally purchased it.” says Kristin. Here is a complete list of what Best Buy will accept into their e-waste program.

So we’ve finally figured out how to recycle our e-waste. Now wouldn’t it be great to not have to do it at all? Organizations such as The Electronics Take Back Coalition (ETBC) promote responsible green design for electronics, eliminating this extreme cycle of turnover with electrical gadgets. The necessity for green design is further explained by Annie Leonard’s “The Story of Electronics.” (Yes, it’s so good, we’re featuring it again.) Leonard explains the “design for the dump,” or when companies design our electronics to be thrown away quickly into our landfills. 


Image: floydwilde/Flickr osde-info/Flickr