Remember to recycle your electronics during the holidays

With the holiday shopping season in full swing – and electronics on the top of Santa’s gift list – many organizations are staging electronics recycling drives in December to capture some of the old mobile phones, laptops and tablets that are being replaced.

It’s important to recycle – and not throw away – unwanted electronics. By now, most Americans should know, or at least have a basic feeling that, throwing electronics in the trash is wrong. Perhaps it’s a belief that something that expensive should have some residual value, or the (correct) notion that burying the high-tech components in a landfill could allow potentially harmful substances can leach out into groundwater.

For whatever the reason, Americans are slowly, but surely, beginning to recycle their electronics as automatically as they separate cans, bottles and paper from their household waste.

But is it enough to simply drive electronics down to the city collection point? How many people take the time to find out who is recycling their electronics, and if it’s being done responsibly?

Top recyclers say it’s important for everyone to ensure their electronics are being handled responsibly. Residents, for example, should not hesitate to question how their elected officials selected electronics recyclers for government-sponsored collection events. Do the recyclers have data security protocols in place? Are they certified to industry standards? Will the material be processed in a manner that is safe for the environment and the workers handling it?

In many states, especially those with electronics recycling mandates or producer responsibility laws, state legislatures have set up a minimum requirement for recyclers accepting material from state agencies; in Pennsylvania and the newly-enacted electronics recycling program, electronics recyclers must hold Responsible Recycling or other industry certifications, in addition to meeting other requirements, to participate in the state EPR program. Other states, however, take a laissez-faire approach. For example, in Ohio, while individual businesses or local governments may set their own rules regarding who may handle their obsolete and unwanted escrap, there are no state-wide rules or regulations. That means, potentially, the electronics being collected by the community electronics drive could be handled in an unsafe or insecure manner – and such an occurrence isn’t unheard of, given the vast troves of online information available on how to protect personal information on old phones and laptops.

If you are thinking of recycling your mobile phone or other electronics, first and foremost, consider working with a recycler who is certified to the R2/RIOS™ standards. For more information on certification, visit The Institute of Scrap Recycling Industry’s new website at www.isri.org/certifyme.

Keep these points in mind when recycling electronics:

  • Is the collection method secure? What steps have been taken to protect the data on the devices before they are recycled?
  • Does the recycler have data protection protocols?
  • Is the recycler certified? Will the environment and employees be protected while the electronics are recycled?
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