Technological progress is not so great for the Earth, as last year’s innovation becomes this year’s obsolete junk. The devices we increasingly can’t live without — laptop, tablet, smartphone — are all considered e-waste, the fastest-growing segment of the world’s trash. Our sophisticated little machines contain a whole slew of materials like lead, mercury and rare metals that can poison the environment when burned or buried.
But there are ways to safely recycle those components, and Washington makes it easy with a statewide program that’s free for households and small businesses. Instead of consumers paying hefty recycling costs, the state requires big companies like Apple and Dell to pay a fee for the products they sell here. More than 2.4 million pounds of old computers, laptops and TVs were collected in Spokane County in 2012.
Local companies that participate in the program will take other electronics, too. Earthworks Recycling takes big appliances and miscellaneous electronics like keyboards, VCRs and remotes for 40 cents a pound. Careful recycling means almost nothing gets sent to a landfill, owner Jim Schrock says. Disassembly of E-Cycle Washington items happens right here in the state, so no need to worry that your old, toxic electronics are going to end up in the hands of children in foreign countries.
In Kootenai County, residents can drop off computers, TVs, phones and other common items at the county’s solid waste transfer stations for free.