How E-waste Works

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle E-waste

People in Encino, Calif., took advantage of the WorldFest 2006 Earth Day celebration by dropping off their old electronics for a local company to recycle.
People in Encino, Calif., took advantage of the WorldFest 2006 Earth Day celebration by dropping off their old electronics for a local company to recycle.
Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

Motivated to start sending your old electronic devices and electrical household products to a good home?

First, check to see if your device's manufacturer will take the product back. Take-back programs are slowly expanding, and many companies allow customers to return at least some computer models and equipment when they no longer want them. Apple, Dell, Hewlett Packard, Sony and Toshiba are some of the companies that take back some of your old electronic devices. You may be charged a small fee to return your computer and, as the saying goes, other rules and restrictions may apply. Some companies will take back any brand of electronics; others will accept their products only. From there, your e-waste may be completely recycled by the manufacturer or refurbished for future use.

Another option is to recycle e-waste by taking your old electronics and electrical junk to a legitimate e-waste recycler who practices on-site recycling. The process typically uses an expensive recycling machine, which is fairly common in Europe but less so in the U.S. The machine smashes the electronics and takes them down a conveyor belt. The process uses vibrating screens and magnetic fields to extract different elements. Another common way involves workers (wearing proper protective gear) in a disassembly line, who take apart the electronics piece by piece and sort the contents. Then, different machines break the various pieces down to the point where they can be reused. Again, you might be asked to pay a small fee depending on what you bring in.

Don't let your storage closets and garages become electronic burial grounds. Visit the links below for more information about e-waste and legitimate recycling.

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