Electronic recycling becomes booming business

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Electronic recycling becomes booming business

TIPS TO RECYCLE YOUR OLD DEVICES

Before you send that old cell phone or TV off, beware of the following:

  • Make sure the electronic recycler is certified through a third party vendor like the Responsible Recycling Practices Standard (R2) or e-Stewards. All of the recyclers mentioned in this story are certified. If you use a retailer that isn’t certified, you might be putting your personal data at risk or the company could recycle your device in an unethical manner.
  • Call the location to check what the business accepts and to get a quote before you try to recycle an item. Most businesses won’t except a Cathode Ray Tube television, for example.
  • Call Global Environmental Services in Sharonville at 513-360-6182 or E-Waste Systems in Springdale to recycle a Cathode Ray Tube television, Anne Fiehrer Flaig of Butler County recommends.

NEED TO DROP OFF YOUR TECHNOLOGY?

Keep Cincinnati Beautiful and Cohen Recycling will host a recycling event for household items like computers, cables, computers, modems and laptops Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Whole Foods Market parking lot at 2693 Edmondson Rd, Cincinnati, Ohio 45208.

Recycling is free for most items but a small fee will be required to recycle TVs and large monitors.

ONLINE EXCLUSIVE

To find an ecoATM located near you, visit www.journal-news.com.

NEED TO DROP OFF YOUR TECHNOLOGY?

Keep Cincinnati Beautiful and Cohen Recycling will host a recycling event for household items like computers, cables, computers, modems and laptops Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Whole Foods Market parking lot at 2693 Edmondson Rd, Cincinnati, Ohio 45208.

Recycling is free for most items but a small fee will be required to recycle TVs and large monitors.

Do you have a plan for what you will do with your outdated, slow phone when you swap it for the newest gadget?

Most people store old electronics in a rarely-opened drawer or toss them in the garbage.

But a growing number of consumers are either recycling their out-of-date technology or trading it for cash.

“There’s a growing awareness of the environmental need to recycle and the value of some of the materials that can be reused (from electronics) instead of just throwing it in a landfill,” said Dina Pierce, a spokeswoman with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The agency estimates more than 650,000 tons of electronics are recycled, according to a 2011 study of recycled and trashed technology, the most recent report available. But that’s only a sliver of the more than 2.37 million electronics that were ready to be tossed by the end of 2009, according to the EPA.

More companies are popping up around the country and in Butler County that are willing to pay you to take those valuable, but unused products, off your hands.

‘Never throw it away’

Simply ditching your dated computer in a dumpster can leave any personal information that might remain on the technology’s hard drive ripe for hacking, said Michelle Balz, a program manager for Hamilton County’s Department of Environmental Services.

“It’s very risky to throw that material out in the landfill,” Balz said. “Most people have personal information on their cell phone, computers. I’ve heard of recyclers who will pick up a hard drive that’s been hammered, but they’re still able to pull info on that.”

Ohio is one of 25 states that does not regulate electronic waste, according to the National Center for Electronics Recycling, which tracks state laws on the issue.

Although laws don’t prohibit Ohio residents from simply tossing technology in the trash, outdated devices can have a dangerous impact on the environment, your personal information and human health, said Adam Dumes, the sustainability director for Cohen, a Middletown-based scrap metal and technology recycler.

Some of those devices, such as computers or televisions, also contain lead or mercury that can potentially damage the environment or seep into the ground if they sit in a landfill for the next few decades.

“You should never throw it away,” Dumes said of electronics. “It’s reusable and it’s toxic.”

But there’s an upside — the electronics also contain valuables like gold, platinum and glass, Balz said.

That’s why businesses like Cohen and ecoATM, a San Diego start-up that now has electronic recycling kiosks in grocers and malls around southwest Ohio, have joined the fight to get those electronics from you before they end up in the trash.

The companies and others will pay you for your unused device. Then, they rid the machines of data and either resell or harvest the materials out of the devices. If your technology has no further use, they’ll typically recycle the items for you at no cost.

Cohen Brothers has been in the electronic recycling business for five years now and Dumes said they’ve recycled millions of pounds worth of TVs, computers, keyboards and phones for both individuals and businesses.

The ecoATM, which has locations in Fairfield, Franklin, Middletown, Liberty and West Chester, gives back cash for old phones, MP3 players and tablet devices. To get the cash, users must show an ID, give a fingerprint and are monitored via a video by ecoATM workers in San Diego, to ensure the phones aren’t stolen.

The company’s kiosks have collected 102,000 devices in Ohio, the third highest of all 41 states where the company operates.

“We consider Ohio to be a great state to operate in, and enjoy that we’re providing our service to consumers there,” Amy Rice a spokeswoman for ecoATM said in an email.

Peak collection at the kiosks occurs during holiday months, when people are gifting their loved ones with the latest gadgets, and the company enjoyed “an 80 percent increase of iPhone-related activity” on Aug. 19 — the day the iPhone 6 was released. So far, more than 3 million devices have been collected and 75 percent of the items were re-purposed, which could include re-selling cell phones to wireless companies.

Technology stores have also gotten in the technology recycling business.

Best Buy recycled its one billionth pound of electronic waste in September and the stores accept anything from printer cartridges to computers. Meanwhile, Staples has recycled an estimated 80 million pounds worth of technology since 2007; the stores pay for some electronic waste with a gift card.

‘Do the right thing’

There’s been such a growth in private business buy-back that some counties have stopped offering electronic recycling services entirely.

Butler County Recycling and Solid Waste District offered an electronic waste program from 2008 to 2012 that, on average, cost taxpayers $15,000 yearly. That program was nixed last year because of the emergence of private sector options, Anne Fiehrer Flaig, the district coordinator for the county agency, said.

“A lot of the private retailers have gotten into the business of taking back electronics,” Fiehrer Flaig said. “I think a lot of consumers want to do the right thing with their obsolete material.”

Hamilton County also discontinued it’s electronic recycling program for the same reason last year, Balz said.

“When we started (e-recycling) in the early 2000s there was nobody accepting this material but it was a growing waste field,” Balz said. “Now, there’s so many outlets.”

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