“Electronics” includes a long list of products from televisions and computer components to phones and cell phones, VCRs, DVD players, fax machines, stereo equipment, and copy machines. As new technologies are developed, producers work very hard to convince consumers that they “must have” the latest model. But what happens to the staggering quantities of those “obsolete” electronics?

The EPA estimates that between the years of 2000 and 2005, as many as 250 million PCs will be junked. The electronics industry estimates that 100 million cell phones will be discarded every year. Not only is this a huge amount of material, but also much of it contains significant amounts of hazardous substances.

The long-term solution to this problem is to work for a comprehensive plan to require manufacturers to be responsible for what they produce from cradle to grave and provide recycling and remanufacturing of their products. Until then, when it comes to reusing and recycling, we are on our own.



Recycling and reuseoptions

Recycle, reuse, reduce, resist (not in that order)

Of course, it is always better to reduce before you reuse, and reuse before you recycle. But we suggest you first RESIST buying the up-to-the-minute technology with all the latest bells and whistles. If the draw (or need) is too powerful and you purchase new equipment, try to find a new “home” to reuse your no-longer wanted gear. Ask a local non-profit community organization or school, or maybe the family next door to see if they can use it.

Other reuse options include resale shops, such as the Brown Elephant Shops at (773) 549-5943, the Salvation Army at (888) 5-PICKUP (i.e., 574-2587), and Goodwill Industries of Southeastern Wisconsin/Metropolitan Chicago at (312) 212-1290. All will accept electronics from TV’s to DVD players in working condition, but note that Goodwill is currently not accepting personal computers.

Of course, you can also sell your old equipment. Selling it locally is best since it lessens the need for transportation (and thus fossil fuels). But eBay works, too. Or you can give it away for free through the
Freecycle Network
, which connects individuals who are throwing away goods and others who can use them. Use link under “web resources, ” below, to join.

If you can’t find a workable reuse option, try to recycle your equipment. Locally, we have found one recycling company, United Recycling Industries (URI), which accepts used electronics for free if you deliver to them. Located in West Chicago, they only accept M-W-F. Call them at (800) 270-8220 for directions.

Finally, Chicago, in conjunction with the Illinois EPA, annually holds several electronics collection days along with its household hazardous waste collections. Computers and other electronic equipment can be dropped off free of charge, but electronics from commercial sources are not accepted. Dates and locations for electronics/HHW collections in the Chicago area can be found on the IEPA website link, below. Or call the Illinois EPA Waste Reduction Unit at (217) 785-8604 or the City of Chicago Department of Streets and Sanitation at (312) 744-4611.

Web resources

Illinois EPA Household Hazardous Waste Collection Schedule

USEPA “Product Stewardship”

Also see:

Cell phones