ORLANDO — Education has always been a key factor in raising the participation rate for recycling programs. The more that communities get out the message that recycling helps protect the environment and our natural resources, the more people start participating.
The more they understand that recycling creates jobs and improves the economy, their numbers increase.
There are additional reasons to recycle used electronics than environmental or economic benefits. Once their Apple devices break and they can no longer serve to make calls, texts or check emails, people assume they hold no value.
What they don’t realize is there is still value in many of the individual parts within their broken iPhones, iPads and Smartphones.
And it’s particularly critical to keep those parts out of landfills, since the chemicals within them pose a serious health hazard.
But as a growing number of states launch e-recycling programs, they’re grappling with the question of understanding why people don’t routinely recycle their old electronics. States that have set up online surveys have found that a lot of residents don’t know how to recycle electronics, didn’t even understand there was such a thing, and usually think of recycling solely in terms of items like plastic bottles, newspapers and empty cans.
And that’s true even as many of them endorse the idea of recycling and the benefits it provides to the environment.
So all of this comes back to education.
What are the top reasons why people don’t recycle electronics?
Today, it’s been estimated that fewer than 25 percent of used household electronics get recycled. It’s a surprisingly low number considering how many electronics there are in each one of our homes today – from flat screen television sets to laptops and smartphones, compact disc and DVD players, microwaves and other kitchen appliances, and so on.
These are the very products we absolutely should be recycling, since many of them contain heavy metals like silver, gold, and copper, which can be reused in new products.
We also don’t want these products containing mercury to be left in landfills, where that mercury can seep into the ground, or into the nearby water supply.
So for every person quick to toss a used soda bottle or soup can into their recycling bin, why don’t they take the time to recycle their electronics?
Why don’t they feel similarly compelled to recycle their laptop or smartphone once they think it’s beyond repair?
Here are some of the reasons that states are found in their surveys.
1. Convenience. With a municipal recycling plan in place, some city residents are only given the option of taking their items to a recycling center, and some won’t bother because of the time involved in doing so. That includes recycling with regular household items like plastics and papers, or electronics.
2. Misinformation. Some people just don’t get the messages about how easy it can be to recycle, or how beneficial it is to our environment. They might think it’s too complicated or that it costs them money to participate, or simply that electronics don’t belong in recycling. Some of them think the process will be cumbersome and confusing.
3. Location, location. Some states don’t have very many electronics drop-off sites, so it’s harder for people to get them to recycling companies, even in states like Pennsylvania, which has banned televisions, computers and their accessories from landfills. What these states lack is a dependable statewide infrastructure for recycling electronics.
Still, there are other options. Anyone who has a used electronic that they no longer want can take it to a recycling company like Great Lakes Electronics Corporation, which sis able to disassemble these items into component parts, find the ones with value, and have them sold for reuse.
How can people become motivated to recycle their e-Waste?
Education definitely is one of the strongest tools in effectively boosting recycling rates. Getting the word out about the benefits of e-recycling is important. So is letting people know they have options like Great Lakes Electronics Corporation.
So what are the most important reasons to recycle used electronics?
1. Protecting your own health and well-being. Different electronic products contain not just lead – which is particularly common in computer monitors and older television sets – but also chromium, cadmium, mercury, beryllium, zinc and even brominated flame retardants. These materials enable the electronics to work, but in a dead cellphone or laptop they’re simply toxic materials with the ability to seriously pollute our environment.
2. Jobs, jobs, jobs. The more e-Waste products that recycling companies get, the more people they can hire to handle the workload. That’s particularly true in areas that do not have municipal government-sponsored drop-off centers. If the recycling rate for e-Waste soars, so will the job opportunities in this field.
3. The cost factor. Using recycling materials to build new electronics items helps keep the cost down, benefitting all consumers.
4. Conservation. Every valuable item that gets recovered from old electronics and then used to make new products reduces the need to mine for new raw materials. That reduces the pressure on our environment and natural resources.
If people are not recycling their electronics because they don’t know how or where to do it, this is a process that couldn’t be simpler.
A firm like Great Lakes Electronics, for example, can become your security specialist. All personal information stored on your devices and hard drives will be eliminated first, which also eliminates any concerns about your sensitive data being stolen and identity theft becoming a concern.
This is a way for anyone recycling their laptops, smart phones or other devices to get an instant piece of mind.
Michael Freeman is an Orlando journalist, playwright and author of the book “Of Cats And Wolves.” Contact him at Freelineorlando@gmail.com.