steps to reduce electronic waste

5 Mar

On Tuesday, I talked about the escalating problem of electronic waste and how product life cycle, including disposal and consumption habits are contributing exponentially.

I have discussed consumption in great detail but for the last couple days, I’ve been contemplating actions that reduce electronic waste and how we can implement solutions.

I’ve decided to create a blueprint, a road map of questions to help you dispose and purchase electronics wisely.

steps to reduce electronic waste

The best way to look for a solution is to disect the causes of the hazards into 3 main areas:

  1. production (the manufacturer)
  2. consumption (the consumer, that’s you)
  3. disposal (the government with cooperation from you and the manufacturer)

follow a road map to make your decision

A few questions  & resources followed in order can be applied to any sustainable purchasing process quite effectively to make the right choice.

Question 1 – do I really need this product or do I just want it?

If NO you are done

If YES or MAYBE go to question 2 & 3

Question 2 – can I repair or stretch the use of the old one?

Question 3 – can I wait 30 days?

This gives you a chance to rethink.

If YES or MAYBE go to question 4

Question 4 – where do I repair it?

Research your options (even an expensive repair can stretch your money and reduce landfill). You can look on local classifieds to find a handyman that may repair it for less.

If you decide to repair you are done

IF you decide to purchase then move on to question 5

Question 5 – what product is the best quality and value?

Research the best products and places to purchase – what matches your needs (do a chart)

Go back to question 1

Then ask these questions to research eco friendly electronic purchasing:

  1. What is the most energy efficient device?
  2. Which product will last the longest?
  3. Can this product be recycled?
  4. Is the product made from recyclable material?
  5. Are there replacement parts or consumables?
  6. Does the replacement and consumable have a recycling program?
  7. Does the manufacturer have a disposal or take back program?
  8. Does the manufacturer reduce packaging and distribution?
  9. Which product will last the longest?
  10. Which manufacturer cares about the environment and community?

Here’s a bit of help to choose green products. You can also check out the green washing index to help make a quick choice.

Now you are ready to purchase by moving on to question 6

Question 6 – can I buy, barter or trade to get this product used?

If yes or maybe here are some great ideas to swap barter and trade

If you decide to buy it new (or are unable to find the perfect match) ask question 7

Question 7 – what is the best place to buy this product new?

If you have done question 5 thoroughly, you will know which product you want and whether you want to purchase new or used. Make sure you buy from a responsible retailer!

Now the follow up begins and you will need to move on to question 8

You need to dispose of the old one – keeping it only adds to a consumptive mentality since you will need space to hold on to it and it’s value is limited if unused (it is depreciating). Throwing it out will increase the chances that it ends up polluting the environment.

Question 8 – how do I get rid of the old product responsibly?

If it is in good condition you have 2 choices:

Question 9 – can I sell it to a consumer?

Try the usual suspects of online classified, ebay or bartering sites mentioned in question 6.

There are a few programs that may pay you for your old products and even have products for purchase. One recently discovered program is You Renew.

If you find a buyer you are done.

If you have no luck selling it move on to question 10

Question 10 – can I give it away?

You can choose to give it to a consumer or donate it:

To give it away ask your friends, coworkers or people in your community firts. Then try all the online classifieds (make sure you use ones that are free and only sell locally as this keeps it out of the recycling stream and reduces the impact).

Even a broken product could be someone else’s treasure. You can also use the Free Cycle Network to find a quick home.

If you find someone you are done.

If you need to donate it ask question 11 and/or 12

(some recycle programs listed below will be donate it to schools or communities in need)

Question 11 – is there a manufacturer take back program?

Start with the manufacturer – they have more stringent guidelines that are regulated globally.They also partner with many programs that benefit the community.

Visit the Electronic Takeback Coalition for a  comprehensive list of programs.

If you find a program, call them and you are done.

If you can’t find a manufacturer take back move on to question 12

Question 12  – what programs recycle responsibly?

Try your municipality first to make sure a program is in place.

You can look up where to recycle on earth911

Find the right program. Research for the correct disposal method usually only takes a quick email or call:

Guide To Recycling Electronics Responsibly

Recycling and Donating Electronics

Basel Action Network

Tech Soup Complete Donation List (this is a very large list and can be sorted by region)

Once you have found the program you like, do a quick call to one of the other groups to make sure they are a solid choice!

Give them a call and you are now done!

Pat yourself on the back.

You can follow this process for any product that you feel is harmful if you want to keep it out of the waste stream.

Go to Digital Tips or Greener Computing for an even more comprehensive breakdown of each step for a consumer to take in the cradle to grave scenario of computer and electronic waste and purchasing. A few more questions to ask if you are interested in further research on the topic.

I hope this provides a good guide and helps you dispose or purchase electronics accordingly. If there is anything I have missed or any suggestions please add your comments below or contact me. Please share and distribute this as freely as possible. I may make a visual road map in the near future to promote this idea further as I feel quite strongly about the impact of the solution.

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6 Responses to steps to reduce electronic waste



March 7th, 2010 at 5:03 am

I don’t have much to add to this post, just wanted to let you know I enjoyed it and agree totally with the roadmap you are laying out… The most important aspect I guess is just cutting down consumption….


quick update for march

March 9th, 2010 at 8:22 pm

[…] steps to reduce electronic waste […]



November 22nd, 2011 at 4:30 am

Excellent questions and guidelines that should be taken seriously by all of us. We need to be more responsible to our environment and one way of addressing electronic wastes is by seriously considering the questions above. On my part, I have been extending the life of my two laptops – one is old & slow and the other one’s body has been chipping off here & there but still perfectly useable.


simply stephen

November 22nd, 2011 at 10:46 am

Tim…welcome to the site. It’s been a while since I looked at this article. I could probably refine the questions but they do the trick. I’m working on a mini guide that expands the 3Rs to address a new approach to consumption.

Glad to hear you are extending the life of your laptops. I’ve done the same with mine by replacing the screen and upgrading the drive and memory. That was less expensive than buying a new one and it does everything I need it to do. It amazes me that people want new so quickly…I am greater than a power user on the computer and am trained in the industry and yet my equipment does everything I need. I’ve also and traded equipment to minimize my impact and add function to my computing needs.

Switching to Linux greatly increased my ability to and speed.

It’s amazing what really function with and what we perceive we need. Thanks for doing your part.



November 22nd, 2011 at 3:23 pm

I think this is a very good thought process that everyone needs to consider being that we all now have electric gadgetry and devices in our possession. This is only going to grow over time so there needs to be improvement in how electronic waste as you put it gets reduced.


simply stephen

November 22nd, 2011 at 5:09 pm

Fortunately, there are some processes in place. Manufacturers and Municipalities are catching up. It takes the consumer to change the way we do things if we want to make the difference…thanks for visiting.

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