Rapid technology advances have made electronic waste the fastest-growing waste stream in the U.S. While most of us know how to recycle paper, plastic bottles or aluminum cans, many people don't know how to properly dispose of old computers, cellphones and other electronic devices.
Types of e-waste
Audio Visual – TVs, computers, smartphones, video games, stereos, printers, watches, flashlights, hearing aids, wrist watches.
Small Appliances – Microwaves, hair dryers, vacuum cleaners, electric shavers, coffee makers, curling irons.
Large Appliances – Refrigerators, washers, dryers, freezers, air conditioners, dishwashers, dehumidifiers, exercise equipment.
What is e-waste?
E-waste is a term used to describe old or non-functioning electronic and electrical products. It used to be limited to items of an audio-visual nature such as TVs, computers, stereos and phones, but includes any item that has a plug or runs on a battery, including small and large appliances.
What's the problem?
Electronics can contain lead, mercury and various other chemicals and hazardous materials. Properly reusing or recycling electronics prevents these metals and toxic materials from ending up in a landfill, harming our environment and endangering public health.
When you recycle electronics, valuable materials (metals, plastics and glass) are extracted and used for new products.
How do I get rid of it?
There are two options for disposing of old or non-functioning e-waste:
- Recycle — There are multiple retail options for recycling most audio-visual types of e-waste that are old or non-functioning. A handful of local organizations recycle anything that requires electricity or a battery, including small and large appliances. Search for the item(s) you have on RecycleSpot.org.
- Donate — Donation is a great option for electronics that are fairly new and in good working condition. Search for the item(s) you have on RecycleSpot.org.
Why is there a fee?
Fees are charged for recycling some types of e-waste because of associated costs, such as proper recycling/disposal methods, trucking, packing materials, labor and insurance.
Is my data secure?
E-waste recycling companies should always have data security policies and procedures in place such as data wiping and documentation of destruction. Always contact an e-waste recycler first to find out what they offer.
Does certification matter?
Only use e-waste recycling companies that are R2 and/or e-Stewards certified. R2 and e-Stewards are accredited, independent, third-party-audited certification programs that represent the highest standard for responsible electronics recycling and reuse. These certification programs are based on best practices in environmental health and worker safety, data security and all applicable laws.
Learn about Missouri's program for responsible reuse, recycling and disposal of e-waste at E-Cycle Missouri.
How can I reduce e-waste?
- Buy used or recycled. Many retailers offer refurbished computers and equipment. You can also get good deals by purchasing used PCs, tablets and phones that are a version or season behind.
- Share. Some electronics may not be used frequently. Consider sharing them with family members, borrowing from neighbors or friends, or renting for occasional use.
- Use the cloud. Storing files, photos and documents online can reduce the need for CDs, server storage and external hard drives.