People give all sorts of electronics as gifts around the holidays: phone chargers, e-book readers, video games, drones and more. But what should we do with the devices they are replacing?
Most of our gadgets end up in landfills, others stuffed away in a closet, never to be played with again. In the tech industry, hoarding or disposing of used electronics this way is known as e-waste, and can leave toxic materials and pollutants in the environment. The amount of e-waste is growing every year — by some estimates, consumers threw away 92 billion pounds of used electronics last year, up from 87.7 billion pounds the previous year, according to a report by the United Nations University, the academic and research arm of the United Nations.
Efforts are underway to dispose of electronics more responsibly. Electronics resellers, for one, have existed for years and purchase old tech products. More recently, large tech companies including Apple and phone carriers like Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile USA and AT&T have begun trade-in programs for cellphones, offering consumers credit toward buying new phones. The companies then often resell the old cellphones internationally.
Yet the e-waste issue persists. Many people shove their old computers and tablets into junk drawers or closets, said Chris Sullivan, the chief executive of Gazelle, a company that buys and sells used electronics. “They’re unaware of the options,” he said, on how to responsibly dispose of many electronics.