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Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2008 04:37 pm

Other recyclables

What to do with electronics when they die

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Resources are now available to help consumers recycle everything from electronics to fluorescent light bulbs to disposable batteries.
PHOTO COURTESTY OF WIKIPEDIA

How do we find out about recycling the many other items we use that eventually break or die out, such as light bulbs, disposable batteries, portable electronics, and so on? 

It’s true that recycling items other than paper, plastic, and glass is still no easy task, but if you’re committed to unloading something without adding it to a landfill a little research can go a long way. Fortunately, there are some great resources out there to help. One of the best is a May 2006 article by Sally Deneen, published in E/The Environmental Magazine, titled “How to Recycle Practically Anything.” Besides debunking myths about the ineffectiveness of municipal recycling programs, Deneen outlines where and how to recycle dozens of different types of household items not typically picked up by the recycling truck at your curbside. Regarding compact fluorescent light bulbs — which shouldn’t be thrown in the trash because they contain trace amounts of the toxic heavy metal mercury — Deneen recommends first checking with your local household hazardous waste disposal facility to see whether they will be taken for recycling. If not, many hardware stores will take back spent CFLs. If none of these options pans out, check out a free online listing of companies that recycle CFLs at the LampRecycle.org Web site. As for disposable batteries, Deneen says, they, too, can usually be dropped off at municipal hazardous-waste facilities, where they will be disassembled and their parts recycled for use in other products. If such facilities in your area won’t take them, a local or national retailer may — just call and ask. Another option is to pay for the privilege by sending them to Battery Solutions, a mail-order company that will recycle them for 85 cents per pound. Another common question is how to recycle (or at least responsibly dispose of) portable electronics — cell phones, video games, MP3 players — in light of the fact that they usually contain heavy metals and chemicals that can pollute the soil and groundwater. Deneen recommends dropping them off at your local Staples, Office Depot, or Radio Shack store, which should take them back free of charge even if you didn’t buy them there. Another option is shipping the worn-out items to CollectiveGood (4508 Bibb Blvd., Tucker, GA 30084), which will recycle them and donate the proceeds to the charity of your choice. If you’re stumped with regard to how or where to recycle an item, check out the Earth911.org Web site. It offers a free keyword-searchable, ZIP code-based database of municipal and commercial recycling and hazardous-waste-disposal facilities across the United States. The frequently updated database, which is funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as well as state governments and several nonprofits, can also direct you to the proper municipal facility or local business to offload potentially toxic items, such as old tires or unused paint, in a safe and responsible manner. If you don’t have handy Internet access, give Earth911’s toll-free telephone hotline a call: 800-253-2687.
For more information: LampRecycle.org, www.lamprecycle.org; Battery Solutions, www.batteryrecycling.com; CollectiveGood, www.collectivegood.com; Earth911.org, www.earth911.org.

Send questions to Earth Talk, care of E/The Environmental Magazine, P.O. Box 5098, Westport, CT 06881 or e-mail earthtalk@emagazine.com.
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