The Importance of Responsible Recycling for Used Electronics


Economic Value 
While advances in technology give consumers the availability to upgrade to newer, sleeker and more energy-efficient electronics products, it is important to remember that older electronics units and devices may not have reached the end of their useful life.

On average, the original owner keeps a laptop computer for only three years and will discard their cell phone after only 24 months. However, many televisions, computers, computer monitors, mobile phones and other electronics are still in good working condition and can be recycled, refurbished or donated to schools and charities. There is a vibrant, for-profit secondary market for recent models of laptop computers, desktop computers and cell phones because these products retain significant value.

Numerous EIA member companies have created and are participating in programs designed to assist consumers in recycling used electronics products. These programs help place your electronics products into the recycling stream by refurbishing the device or giving it back to the community, either to schools, charities, economically disadvantaged or disabled citizens of your community. These efforts benefit both the environment and your community. You can even get tax deductions for donating your working electronics to schools or charities.

Many electronic product parts can be refurbished and reused. EIA member companies making efforts to use recycled materials, including glass, metals and plastics, in new generations of their products.

Properly managing your used electronics includes responsible recycling for protection of the environment and your personal privacy.

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Resource Conservation 
EIA member companies support electronics recycling as a way to conserve valuable resources. We believe it is far more preferable to refurbish and recycle used electronics than to dispose of them in landfills.

Some electronics products contain materials such as lead and mercury, which provide critical and unique safety, performance, reliability and energy efficiency benefits. While the industry proactively develops viable substitutes and manufacturers successfully incorporate these into their products, these materials cannot yet be replaced in all applications.

EIA member companies follow strict guidelines and regulations when recycling products or contracting with electronics recyclers. Unfortunately, not all companies that recover and manage used electronics abide by these regulations, which results in obsolete electronics being mis-managed in the U.S. and in other countries that lack proper facilities, training and resources to safely and properly process these products

Over the last few years, more and more states have been passing and considering legislation regarding end-of-life electronics disposal and mercury content bans. The stringent European Union Directive on the Restriction of Hazardous Substances (the RoHS Directive) provides narrow exemptions for specified uses of these materials when no technically or environmentally suitable alternatives exist. Many EIA member companies have long-standing design-for-environment and product stewardship programs that pre-date the RoHS Directive by years.

EIA member companies encourage consumers to participate in electronics recycling so that we can help eliminate the amount of these materials in our landfills and help keep our environment clean. With your help, we can continue to be good stewards of the environment.

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To protect your privacy, we recommend that you remove all data from a computer hard drive before donating, selling or recycling a computer or other information storing device. Your computer is filled with personal and financial information and this data should be properly removed in order to protect you from identity theft. Identity theft is one of the fastest growing forms of crime in the country and consumers must take extra steps to prevent this crime. For more information about identity theft go to:

It is necessary to wipe any media clean before disposing of it. This includes the hard drive in computers as well as floppies, zip disks, tapes and CD's. There are a number of ways to remove data from your hard drive. The first is the physical destruction of a hard drive, which removes all data but also removes all reuse value. The second method is known as degaussing or the use of a magnetic device to remove data. Verifying data destruction with this method is often very difficult, but can still be effective. The final method is overwriting data. Resources for overwriting data from your computer are readily available online, but if you want the highest level of data security choose a program which meets or exceeds US Department of Defense standards for data destruction.

If you are unable to remove your data before selling, donating or recycling your equipment attempt to find a recycler who will ensure the safety and removal of your data.

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