Tag Archives: electronics

How Do You Figure Out What You Can Recycle?

In some areas recycling is required. In others, it’s all but impossible due to a lack of facilities. How do you figure out what you can and cannot easily recycle in your area?

The simplest solution is to check with the company that handles garbage in your area. Many are also in charge of recycling too. If you’re lucky they’re already providing you with a bin for recyclables that you don’t even need to sort yourself. The information you need may even be on the company website.

Many are pretty picky. It’s not too uncommon for plastics recycling to be limited to #1 and #2 plastics in bottle form only. Others will take pretty much any kind of plastic.

Then there’s paper recycling. It’s generally not as restrictive as it used to be, but you do still have to be careful. Most won’t want food stained paper, paper towels or paper napkins. But it’s often not a problem to include glossy paper, envelopes with plastic windows or staples in with the paper.

Glass recycling can be a bit interesting. Glass jars are fine. Most companies ask that you not put in broken glass of any kind. They also generally don’t take light bulbs, glass from dishes, mirrors or windows.

If you have a local recycling company that picks up at your house but is a bit pickier than you’d like, it can pay to check out options for places you can bring your recyclables. Sometimes they’ll be within a reasonable driving distance. Just search for your area and include the word “recycling” and see if anything good comes up.

If the recycling companies don’t have websites, you’ll just have to call them to find out if you can bring anything to them and what they will take.

In general, recycling companies prefer that glass and plastic be rinsed. You probably don’t need to scrub things out, but a quick rinse isn’t a bad idea. It also means your indoor recycle bin won’t get dirty so quickly even if you don’t line it with a bag.

But don’t just think of the everyday little things. You can recycle big things and things you don’t often dispose of too. Just be picky about how you go about it.

Some electronics can be recycled. Be picky, as too many companies aren’t all that honest about how they recycle electronics. Sometimes they’re just shipped off to other countries, where the recycling is done in a rather hazardous and polluting manner. Check the e-Stewards website for reputable electronics recycling. You may even be able to mail your electronics in.

For cell phones that still work, consider donating it instead. There are companies that will send old cell phones to people in developing countries or domestic violence victims.

Compact fluorescent bulbs don’t belong in the trash when they burn out. They have mercury and really aren’t good for the landfill. But IKEA, Home Depot and some other stores may take them in. Check with your nearest location.

Don’t forget the reuse option, of course. Anything that can be reasonably reused consider offering up on Freecycle or donating to a local charity. That’s even better than recycling!

Cutting Your Computer’s Carbon Footprint

I love my computer. I wouldn’t be able to do what I do without it. But computers don’t necessarily have the best of carbon footprints, particularly if they’re left on more than necessary.

Some of this is pretty easy to handle. Shutting down the computer AND remembering to turn off all accessories at night is a good idea. If this is a challenge, try getting a Smart Strip for your computer. This will shut down accessories whenever you shut your computer down.

For times when you may be more off and on the computer, you can adjust your power settings on Windows computers through the control panel. You can tell it when to go on standby or hibernate, depending on your preferences.

I would also note that it’s a good plan to just not turn on speakers, printers and so forth until you’re actually going to use them. For me this is obvious, as I print very rarely and prefer my computer to be quiet, but less obvious to others.

What About Replacements?

The real challenge can come when you aren’t sure whether or not to replace a computer or its parts. Many people get a new computer every couple years or less.

I don’t replace mine lightly. It’s 3 years old and going strong. My husband’s is (I think) a bit older yet. It’s a handmedown from my older sister, so I’m not quite certain of its age. It has enough power for what he needs a computer for, and that’s quite enough for us.

Sometimes all an older machine needs is some more RAM or a better hard drive. I’ve switched RAM out myself on a computer, and it’s not that hard, but it’s been a while and I can’t explain it. If in doubt, just have a professional do it.

Another way to help an ailing system is to do a virus scan, an antispyware scan, and remove all unnecessary programs, especially things you don’t use that run in the background. It’s amazing how much stuff can clutter up a good system and slow it down. I like Avast antivirus and SuperAntiSpyware… both free. But I would also note that my preferences change as the programs get changed, so do some research as you pick how you protect your computer. You should always have antivirus and antispyware protection on your computer.

Monitors can be a separate matter. A flat screen monitor is much more energy efficient than a CRT. It comes down to when is it right to replace it in consideration of the energy used to create each, as well as what happens to the old monitor after.

Disposal is a Challenge

This is one problem with computers that just hasn’t been properly solved yet. There are recycling programs out there, but you have to be careful. Some programs just ship the problem off to some other country, where the toxic materials aren’t properly handled. It’s a mess for the environment and for the people living in that toxic mess.

If the computer is still usable other ways, you may be able to donate it to a program that will refurbish it. Goodwill has a program at many locations, for example, and also offers instructions on how to get your personal data off the hard drive first. Contact your local Goodwill to be sure. Earth911 is another good resource.