Wednesday, January 27, 2010

There’s $$$ In E-Waste

Did you know there’s a $100 bill in that trash you set out at the curb? Oh, I’m sorry. The truck’s already come. Looks like that c-note is headed for the landfill. It will probably be found by future generations, but be so decayed by then that it will have no value. Pity about all the poisons that will have leached into the environment.

There's $$$$ in that electronic waste.What am I talking about? E-waste. That’s short for electronic waste. Ah, I’ll bet you can guess what’s going on now. The $100 bill in the trash wasn’t in the form of a greenback. It represents the value of that smartphone or navigation system you chucked because you bought a newer model. You can set it out for pickup or you can send it in for cash. It’s your choice.

Electronic waste has been a problem since the first radios and TVs started showing up at the city dump. Nobody made a big deal of it because the early electronic appliances were big, expensive and not likely to be trashed until after decades of service. There was also a lot less environmental awareness back then. That doesn’t mean that these things were benign trash like old chairs or broken window panes. Those metal chassis were chock full of lead solder and chemical filled electrolytic capacitors. Some had batteries with paper wrappers that quickly decomposed.

Fast forward to today’s electronics. Cell phones have a life cycle of around two years each. That’s how long it takes for the contract to expire. With the rapid advance of technology, many people want a new phone every couple of years just to get the latest goodies. They can often get a cell phone for free when they sign a new contract.

Computers don’t fare much better, especially in business. Few microprocessor boards ever wear out. They go obsolete years before they would have failed in service. All those circuit boards are still full of lead solder and components made of various elements. Some, like gold, are valuable. Many are toxic and tend to leach out when exposed to water over many years. Think of the millions and millions of electronic circuit boards piling up as electronic waste, and you begin to sense the potential size of the cleanup problem downstream.

Just as tragic is the residual value of the electronic devices being casually tossed away. Some people may take a stab at selling their old gear using ads on craigslist or eBay. For most, though, that's just way too much effort for the expected reward. After all, that old gadget doesn’t have any value to them since they aren’t using it any more. What they don’t know is that for almost no effort whatsoever they could be pocketing $10, $20, $50, even $100 or more for that “electronic junk.”

What types of devices are we talking about? Cell phones, of course. But also some laptop computers, digital cameras, MP3 players, PDAs, gaming consoles, GPS devices, LCD monitors, satellite radios, projectors, streaming media devices, home audio equipment, camcorders, external drives and Blu-ray players. Even content such as movies on DVD and video games may have residual value.

How can you be sure that you have something of value rather than junk? Better yet, how can you cash in with little effort? The way to do that is to sell your used electronic devices to a recycler that specializes in trading cash for gadgets. You simply visit the website and check the value of what you have in whatever condition its in. If you like what you see, you request a free prepaid mailer and send your gadget in for evaluation. Once approved, a check will be on its way to you quickly. Even if your offering has no remaining financial value, you can still send it in for proper recycling as the responsible thing to do.

So, treat yourself to a fancy coffee or a nice cold beer with part of your proceeds. Be sure to toast the device that served you well through those years and then gave you the opportunity to get a little cash at the end. From now on, you’ll be collecting on all your e-waste.

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