Electronics make popular gifts—they come in all shapes and sizes and fit budgets from the tens of dollars to the thousands. But those new features we just can’t resist can make last year’s models pile up.
Whether you got a new cell phone, TV, laptop, digital music player, gaming console, e-reader or other nifty gadget for the holidays, you have to deal with the old one. Fortunately, the greenest choices on the Peninsula are also easy, convenient and often free.
Rule Out the Trash Can
In California, putting some types of e-waste into the trash is illegal, which keeps heavy metals and toxics chemicals such as lead, mercury and cadmium out of the landfill, where they can leach into our groundwater. At the same time, incentives for recycling help drive a green industry.
Recycling e-waste ensures that all the reusable parts of a device, from plastics to precious metals, get recovered and turned into new products. Mining old electronics—instead of the Earth—helps both the environment and your wallet.
Reuse, Then Recycle
If your old electronics still work, why not send them to a good home? Lots of local nonprofits will take TVs, audio and video equipment and, especially, reusable computers for their clients. Recycleworks’ ReUse Guide will give you the contacts and details for quite a few.
Or you can let a local thrift store decide where your e-toys end up. St. Vincent de Paul, for instance, will separate the re-sellable from the recyclable at their locations in Daly City, South San Francisco, San Mateo, Redwood City and San Bruno.
If you also want to promote green jobs, keep Goodwill’s ReCompute program in mind. Local workers learn new skills while repairing, refurbishing or recycling electronics. Just drop them off at donation stations in San Mateo, Belmont, Burlingame, Redwood City, South San Francisco, Pacifica or Daly City.
For extra points on the green scale, choose a program that certifies safe recycling, with no exports to countries where e-waste dumping endangers communities. A notable local business supporting the Basel Action Network’s e-waste mission is Green Citizen. Free drop-off at their facilities in Burlingame and Palo Alto also comes with the option of complete phone or computer data destruction for a small fee.
Additional Local Options
If you want to do the right thing, but can’t make any of the above work for you, don’t give up! These choices still meet the no-landfill bottom line:
- Old cell phones can be dropped off at almost any store that sells them.
- Best Buy allows customers to drop off a wide range of electronics at its service desk.
- Staples takes Dell products back for free and others for a small fee.
- Some electronics manufacturers now offer postage-paid mail-back service.
- Many Peninsula cities host electronics round-up events for their residents.
- Your city’s contracted waste hauler may include special pick-up as part of its service package.
With so many options to choose from, recycling old electronics is one New Year’s resolution we can all meet.
A mild-mannered civil servant by day, Mary Bell Austin uses her time away from her environmental work for, well, environmental play. Her adventures in healthy eating and her explorations into the wider green world can be found at Bite-size Green. Her column appears biweekly on Saturdays.