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What are End-Of-Life-Electronics?

Computer monitors are end-of-life-electronics that require recycling when they no longer function.
Some end-of-life electronics require recycling.
Headphones are end-of-life electronics.
Specialized plants are needed to recycle old cell phones.
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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 04 October 2014
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End-of-life-electronics refers to a number of our electronic goods, including things like computers, cell phones, televisions, and batteries, and many machines used in businesses like ATM machines, and large phone machines, that require safe disposal or recycling. A number of these products may be reusable or recycled to make new products, and all of them cannot simply be thrown into landfills. Many contain dangerous metals or contaminants that can be released if they’re crushed like other garbage, creating environmental hazards.

The hallmark of end-of-life-electronics is that they are considered no longer usable, are obsolete, or just don’t work anymore. Yet since regular disposal of these items via landfill is not an option in many countries and numerous states in the US, many localities have responded by setting up special recycling centers, recycling programs and different places where end-of-life-electronics can be safely left. Some programs, especially through schools, offer fundraising incentives for the disposal of things like cell phones, cell phone batteries, and printer ink cartridges. At other times, you may be required to pay a fee in order to dispose of your old electronic equipment.

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Environmental concerns matter a great deal when people are disposing of their end-of-life-electronics, as does security. Most people and companies store secure information on their computers: bank account numbers, tax information, and addresses, to name a few. If you plan to recycle items that contain secure information, you obviously don’t want this data accessed by other people, and erasing it may be more challenging than most people suppose. At computer recycling centers, where computers are fixed or rebuilt for schools or for various nonprofit organizations, special methods are used to be certain that no original data is left for others to access, protecting you from identity theft.

Different end-of-life-electronics may have different disposal methods, or designated recycling centers devoted to certain types of electronics. If you’re having a hard time figuring out where to take old equipment you no longer want, try looking up recycling in your phone book. Some phone books even have a front section designated to the safe recycling of goods. Otherwise, call your garbage disposal company and ask them for names of places that take end-of-life-electronics. As mentioned, you may sometimes have to pay a fee for certain things, including most large appliances, but this fee is normally low and it may be deductible from taxes if you’re donating goods to a nonprofit organization.

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Discuss this Article

bagley79
Post 15

@John57 - I am not much of a computer guru, but I do know how to remove the hard drive from my computers.

After reading this article, I am hoping that is a sufficient way to deal with it. If the hard drive is removed, is there any way someone can still find any personal information?

Once you remove the hard drive, you are still left with the problem of what to do with that. It is not as simple as just throwing it away with the rest of your trash.

John57
Post 14

Do you have to be a computer expert to know how to get rid of your personal information? I don't replace my electronics that often, but seem to have a stash of them because I am not sure what to do with them.

You don't need to worry about something like a monitor or printer when it comes to personal information. But what about computers and cell phones?

We get a new cell phone every couple of years from our wireless company. I am wondering if they can erase all that information for you?

I will usually hold on to my old phone for a back up. But after a few years of doing that, I now have a box full of them.

andee
Post 13

With the new electronics that are constantly being updated and improved, this has become a big issue. What is the best way to dispose of these electronic items that are outdated, or no longer work properly?

Some of the major electronic stores and office supply stores will take old computer equipment. I have dropped off outdated electronics at Best Buy stores and American stores.

It just depends on the store, but some of them don't charge you a fee to drop off these items.

At other stores, you may be charged a $10 fee, but receive a $10 gift card so you are really not out any money. There is always something you can find to spend the $10 on - even if it just goes toward an ink cartridge or a new mouse.

Monika
Post 12

I used to work for an insurance company, and security was a big concern when recycling end-of-life electronics. We had a lot of personal information from our customers on our computers. If anyone got their hands on it, it would be pretty easy to commit some serious identity theft.

So, I believe my company hired an outside firm to take care of wiping all of our computers clean when we recycled them. That way we could do the right thing for the environment and for our customers!

sunnySkys
Post 11

@ceilingcat - I personally think those trade in programs are the way to go. As someone mentioned earlier, most companies plan for their devices to break in hopes that you'll buy another one. The least they can do is give you credit towards a new one!

I was actually looking into this for my ebook reader. I bought a Nook a year and a half ago, and the screen recently broke. Now half the screen is blank when you try to read a book. I was looking into trading it in for store credit (they offered a $50 credit a few weeks ago.) But I decided to just keep it.

I realized that it can work as external storage for certain kinds of files, so I'm going to use it to back up some data. I suppose I'm recycling it in my own way!

ceilingcat
Post 10

I'm ashamed to admit I've never thought about this issue much until today. Usually I just throw my old stuff away in the trash and don't think about it anymore. However, one of my cell phones is showing end of life signs, and I got to thinking there must be something else I can do with it rather than throw it away!

So far I've heard about recycling from this article. I've also come across a few electronics trade in programs that allow you to trade your old device in for credit towards a new device.

kylee07drg
Post 9

My dad is a technical genius, and he can always find a way to fix old electronics. So, we never have to dispose of anything around here.

Sometimes, we do give electronics away to charitable organizations, though. When we switched to flat screen televisions, we gave away one of our old TVs. We also kept one to play old video games on.

So, we give away the things we don't need that would just be taking up space, but my dad fixes things that could still serve their purpose around here. We still have the radio that my parents got when they married thirty years ago, and though he has had to do some work on it, it is fine.

StarJo
Post 8

Many times, I have come upon ditches where people have tossed their old end-of-life-electronics. They just park on the side of the road and toss them out of their truck into the ditch.

I have seen refrigerators, televisions, and ovens tossed to the side like this. When the ditches fill with water during the rainy season, I'm sure any dangerous chemicals in the electronics get washed downstream and end up in our water supply.

I can't believe that people would rather pollute the land and water with old appliances than take them to be recycled. I get angry when I see trash like this in ditches and streams, because it just shows how lazy and inconsiderate some people are.

Perdido
Post 7

@wavy58 – It is unfortunate that smaller towns like ours don't always have recycling centers. I store my old batteries and ink cartridges up for the yearly hazardous waste disposal event in my town.

In addition to chemicals like house cleaning products and nail polish remover, they also take end-of-life-electronics. These are distributed to other recycling centers to be put to good use.

I have designated a corner of my garage as the recycling region. This is where I stack up the things that I need to get rid of that can't be simply tossed in the trash. It makes it easier when the time for the yearly event arrives, because I don't have to search around my house for garbage.

wavy58
Post 6

I remember when my office participated in a cell phone drive. The boss put a cardboard box up front by the time clock, and any of us who wanted to get rid of old cell phones could bring them in and place them there.

This was a great way for me to recycle several of my old phones. I had been holding onto them, even though they no longer worked, just because I didn't know what else to do with them.

I live in a small town, and I am not aware of any places to take end-of-life-electronics to be recycled here. I take advantage of any opportunity to do so when I hear about it, though.

ysmina
Post 5

We're probably also in need of some international law and regulation about e-wastes. I read an article in an environmental magazine on this issue. And there it was mentioned that close to a 100,000 tonnes of e-waste is produced each year but three-fourths of that is thrown away improperly. Some of it ends up in our landfills, but a lot of it ends up in landfills in other countries like China.

So this is not just an issue for US or Canada or UK. It's an issue that's effecting the entire world. The chemicals that are released from these thrown away electronics into soil and water might make land and water unusable one day.

ddljohn
Post 4

@jonrss, @summing-- I completely agree with both of your points.

I remember when I was young, the electronics we bought lasted us a good twenty years at least. We still have a TV and washing machine from thirty years ago in our garage that works perfectly fine. This is impossible with the electronics that are manufactured today.

I'm also guilty of having thrown away things like batteries in the regular trash. I didn't even know that there are end of life electronics recycles in Midwest states. I never bothered to look it up in my state or city.

So I do agree that we are just now aware of the hazards involved with throwing away these electronics. Maybe we need to make this a part of school curriculum because when kids become aware, they also pass on that information to their parents.

Towns and cities should also pass around information pamphlets about where the recycles are located and which electronics need to be taken there. This is the only way that we can change things around.

burcinc
Post 3

I think it's costly and time consuming for city governments to be dealing with the recycling of end of life electronics. I think the companies which produce these goods should be responsible for recycling them and should take these products back when they're no longer usable.

The company which provides printer ink cartilages for my office does this. When we put in a new cartilage, we save the box and return it to the company when it's empty. They recycle it, refill it and put it back on the market again.

Not only is this the responsible way to deal with it, but it also saves that company money since they don't have to remake those ink cartilages from scratch. Other companies and electronic component distributors need to adopt this system as well don't you think?

jonrss
Post 2

One reason that there are so many electronic devices being thrown away these days is that electronics manufacturers design their devices to break down earlier. This is called planned obsolescence.

The idea is that they do not engineer their devices to last for decades or even years. They design cheap products that will last a few years and then break. The cost is low enough that people will simply go out and buy a new one rather than consider having their old one fixed. This also keeps people upgrading to newer and flashier devices.

This might make good business sense but it means that we have tons of junk electronics. The only responsible thing to do is recycle them carefully.

summing
Post 1

I wish that there was more public awareness about end of life electronics. Way too many people just throw away their old devices and as a result we are crowding and polluting our landfills with some really dangerous substances.

In order to change this kind of behavior two things need to happen. First, we need to have a public awareness campaign that educates people in a simple and convincing way about the need for electronics recycling. Decades ago this happened for more common kinds of recycling like paper and aluminum and it has been very successful.

Second, we need to create a series of accessible recycling points. Maybe these could be outside of major electronics retailers like best buy. If we make it easy for people to recycle their old electronics, people will have no excuse not to.

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