Help Put the “E’s” in E-Cycling

By Grace Parrish

Since childhood, recycling has been an effortless task that was part of my daily routine. Using five bins labeled: aluminum, plastic, glass, paper, and tin, I thought I was the bee’s knees when it came to being eco-friendly. During my internship at the EPA this fall, I realized that although it is beneficial to keep these items out of the waste stream, I was mistaken in thinking my responsibility ended there. I always recycled my yogurt cups, pizza boxes, and cell phone boxes, but never thought about where the phone itself ends up. My role in recycling must extend a bit further to “e-cycling,” otherwise known as the recycling of electronics.

In this era, everyone’s buzzing with the newest laptops, cell phones, TVs, cameras, you name it! I am guilty of getting caught up in this hype. As a student at the University of Maryland, I must keep up with the latest trends and I rely on my cell phone and laptop daily to receive emails, check class information, research, and of course for everyone’s favorite, Facebook.

Now I find myself questioning where these devices end up once I’m done with them. During my time with the EPA, I gained a fresh perspective on electronics beyond tearing apart the box to a new cell phone received during the holidays.

According to the EPA, we generate almost 2.5 million tons of used electronics every year in the United States. By recycling electronics, we can do our part to improve the health of our environment. E-cycling lessens pollution, shrinks landfills, saves resources from manufacturing, and conserves precious metals, including gold and silver, and other materials used in production. EPA is working with big retailers and manufacturers in its Sustainable Materials Management Electronics Challenge to make sure they are recycling electronics in a safe and responsible manner.

So next time you bee-line it to the store for a gadget that is luring you in, think first if you really need it; when the urge inevitably takes over, rethink your options about where your previous electronics will go. Is donating to a family member, friend, or charity an option? If not, check out an electronics take-back location near you, simply visit: “Where Can I Donate or Recycle My Used Electronics?” We can do our part to put the “e’s”—electronics and environment, in e-cycling!

About the author: Grace Parrish is an intern for the EPA office of Resource Conservation and Recovery, and is intrigued by the impact of recycling electronics. She hopes that her pursuit of an Environmental Science and Policy degree at the University of Maryland, College Park will facilitate her in promoting the ideal of sustainability in a future career.