Cleaning up after the holidays can often produce older electronics that have been replaced by faster, slicker gifts.
Consumers can give new life to old computers, phones, printers and televisions by donating them to Surplus Exchange, a local non-profit electronic recycling/reuse and business waste reduction center that is certified by the Basel Action Network e-Steward program for responsible e-waste recycling.
The Consumer Technology Association estimates $222.7 billion in consumer electronic sales in 2015 and $228.8 billion in sales for 2016. This results in tons of unused electronics, and these projections do not even include business purchases.
At Surplus Exchange, older electronics often can be useful to others. Retired computers are refurbished and given new life to serve low-income students, start-up businesses and non-profit organizations. Many cast-off computers are still good for home use — for searching the Internet, checking e-mail or keeping family budget records.
Ben Martin, interim executive director at Surplus Exchange, recommends donating electronics as soon as they are no longer useful to you or your family. He said many retired machines go into storage because people don’t know what to do with them. Then they are less useful when donated later.
In Kansas City, Surplus Exchange partners with ConnectHomeKC to provide refurbished computers to those who do not have access to computers or the Internet. In this program, an electronic donation can help close the digital divide, change a young or old person’s life, assist non-profit organizations and provide a life-line for a new small business.
“When any electronic product is beyond its useful life, it should be properly recycled,” Martin said. “These products contain toxins that should not be put into landfills, and they often contain materials that can be recovered and reused.”
Lead, phosphor, barium, chromium, beryllium, mercury and PBDE are all common toxins found in electronics. If placed in a landfill, these toxins can reach ground water.
When consumers throw away electronics, they unknowingly bury reusable materials. Gold, silver, palladium and copper are common in electronics. These metals are harvested through hard–rock mining, one of the most environmentally damaging industries on the planet. If 5,000 tons of computers are buried in landfills in one year, it means 650 pounds of gold, 3,500 pounds of silver, 39,500 pounds of copper and 200 pounds of palladium are also buried. It takes 350,000 tons of earth moved to harvest one ton of gold.
Martin said it is important to recycle with certified e-waste recyclers to ensure that e-waste is not sent to underdeveloped countries to be burned in pits or smelted over open fires, harming the humans and the planet.
Find out how to recycle older electronics or purchase refurbished products at Surplus Exchange.