So maybe it’s not a TV on the front yard, but chances are you have old, unused or broken electronic stuff stockpiled somewhere– an estimated 24 items per household. And it is part of a huge and growing international e-waste problem.
The issue: electronic equipment contains highly toxic materials, including lead, cadmium, and mercury, that may leak into the soil and ground water when disposed of in landfills here and abroad. In fact, just one CRT computer monitor can contain from four to eight pounds of lead alone.
The good news is that you can get rid of e-waste, de-clutter your home AND help the planet all at the same time by responsibly recycling, donating, selling, or otherwise reusing your high-tech trash—that includes computers, TVs, printers, cartridges, cell phones, batteries, old videos, and more.
New York is one of 24 states that now have laws to limit or ban e-waste from landfills, according to the nonprofit Electronics Take-Back Coalition, a national group that monitors e-waste and promotes reuse and recycling. For an entertaining overview of the issues, watch “The Story of Electronics” here.
Locally, there are new county and municipal programs that let you reuse and recycle electronics responsibly. Here are 5 easy ways.
#1 Household Material Recovery Days Coming Soon in March
In Westchester County most e-waste can be collected and disposed of at Household Material Recovery Days. The next event is scheduled for Friday, March 18 from 12 PM to 4 PM and Saturday March 19 from 8 AM to 4 PM at Playland Park, Rye.
There is no fee, but pre-registration is required for 100 pounds or more of solid material. To pre-register, call the Recycling HelpLine at (914) 813-5425. You can find out all the items that are acceptable to bring for recycling at www.westchester.gov/recycling.
#2 Local curbside pick-up for some batteries and other e-waste
Most e-waste should not be mixed in with your regular trash. You can call your municipal recycling office or check online for local rules and lists of acceptable e-waste items for curbside pick-up. Different municipalities have very different rules; for example, in New Rochelle, there is curbside pick-up by appointment ( call 235-5830) for TVs and computers.
In the town of Mamaroneck and village of Larchmont, residents should take TVs, computers and other e-waste to the Maxwell Avenue facility ( near the entrance to I-95). According to Stephen Altieri, Superintendent of the Larchmont-Mamaroneck Joint Garbage Disposal Commission, there will not be a special recycling day this year at the Maxwell Avenue facility.
“We have joined the county program,” said Altieri, “so that residents can recycle electronic waste and small appliances at anytime. They merely need to bring these items to Maxwell Avenue and there is a special dumpster set aside to receive these products.”
But don’t recycle your identity! You’ll need to delete all personally identifiable information from your computer and hard drive before you recycle or donate them. Just using Windows and Mac to remove files won’t protect your privacy. Download a good, free, software program, like Eraser, to clean out your hard drive.
You can continue to throw away in the garbage household batteries that are non-rechargeable alkaline and carbon zinc batteries, as well as rechargeable alkaline batteries. (Types include AAA, AA, C, D, 9 volt, long life C and D cells used for toys, radios, appliances and flashlights.)
Other types of household batteries need to be recycled during Household Material Recovery Days or at other locations. For more detailed advice on battery recycling, check the Westchester County website.
#3 Local retailers will recycle electronics
Another easy way to get rid of e-waste is through local retailers who will recycle your gear. Best Buy nearby in Mt. Vernon (664-4425) accepts computers, TVs, CDs and more, even items not bought there. You may need to remove your computer hard drive or the store will charge $10 to do it. Call the store first to check whether they will accept your particular items.
At Staples on Palmer Ave. (833-2031), there is no charge to recycle Dell products and a $10 charge to recycle many different large items from other manufacturers. You also can also bring in smaller electronics including cartridges, cell phones, and old floppy disks, which they can recycle for you at no charge. But be sure to completely erase them. (To erase old floppies, just take a magnet and run it over the metal plate on the floppy disk.)
Under New York State law, beginning June 8, 2011 retailers like Staples and Radio Shack, and others that sell the certain types of rechargeable dry cell batteries (for example, nickel-cadmium, sealed lead, lithium ion, or battery packs with these kinds of batteries) are required to accept and recycle these batteries for free during normal business hours. Retailers are also required to post signs informing consumers about in-store recycling programs.
#4 Companies that take back cell phones and other e-waste
Many manufacturers and charities collect cell phones. At the local Verizon store on Palmer Ave. (main #472-4784), the store manager walked me through my old cell phone’s menu to erase all identifying information, including my phone book, text messages and calls made and received, and she accepted my phone, along with my old recharger, for recycling right on the spot.
For an extensive list of manufacturers’ individual programs, see GoodCleanTech’s Recycling Superguide.
#5 Other reuse and recycling resources for e-waste
If none of the above works for you, go to www.earth911.org or www.call2recycle.org and type in your ZIP code for locations near you that accept cell phones, batteries and more. At www.digitaltips.org/green you also can search for local electronics recycling programs.
The Salvation Army (on North Ave. and Fifth in New Rochelle) takes donations of TVs, computers, printers, radios, DVDs, and other electronics in good working condition.
You also can donate computers and other electronics in good condition through the Reconnect Partnership. There’s a drop-off location in New Rochelle at 8 Joyce Road in New Rochelle off Palmer Ave. (For directions see Goodwill Industries of Greater New York and Northern New Jersey Get Directions)
Joyce H. Newman is an Emmy Award-winning environmental journalist, educator, and gardener. She holds a Certificate in Horticulture from The New York Botanical Garden, and is a tour guide there.