Two weeks ago I shared a post about the DIY iMac cat bed Sean and I made for our kitten.
As we were taking the computer apart, I kept asking myself what the heck we were going to do with the innards of the computer. I knew throwing away electronics was bad for the environment, but I wasn’t sure what to do with them if we couldn’t simply toss them in the dumpster. How do I recycle electronics?
I ended up doing a web search for “How to throw away electronics” and was directed to the Telecommunications Industry Association E-Cycling Center website. I chose Michigan from the drop-down list at the bottom of the homepage, found the nonprofit closest to my apartment, and gave them a call.
I explained that I wanted to recycle all of the parts of an old iMac G3, except the plastic outer casing, keyboard and mouse. This included a monitor, some cables, circuit boards, and other miscellaneous electronic pieces. The man on the phone was very friendly and said they accept all of those things.
The actual process was incredibly easy. They had two big carts right inside the store: one for working electronics, another for nonworking electronics. These obviously didn’t work any more, so we put them on the nonworking cart and left! Easy peasy.
I felt good about dropping the electronics off there, because the TIA website said the nonprofit is certified by the State of Michigan as a Registered Recycler. This isn’t a place that’s going to accept my electronics, sell the metal for scrap, and throw the rest away.
So, why do we need to recycle electronics?
When I was in college, I studied abroad in Accra, Ghana. I absolutely love the West African country and still talk to my host family every once in a while. Ghana definitely has a special place in my heart.
So when I heard about the awful conditions at Agbogbloshie, I got angry.
Agbogbloshie is the world’s largest e-waste dumping site, and it’s disgusting. Young men work at the site, burning old electronics to get to the metals inside. They can then take the metals to sell at scrap yards. However, the conditions are so bad that most workers die from cancer in their 20s.
Our addiction to new technology is fueling this site and contributing to the misfortune of many of these men and boys, in addition to the young girls who work there selling food and water to the workers.
Next time you upgrade your electronics (cough cough, iPhone 6, cough cough), make sure it’s either going to be reused or recycled so it doesn’t end up in an e-waste dump like Agbogbloshie. It’s not as long of a process as it sounds.