E-waste: Bring out your dead (phones)

E-waste: Bring out your dead (phones)

Today, we’re observing World Environment Day with a quiz question:  

What makes your mobile phone work?   

Pixel dust, tiny hamsters on wheels, microscopic pulleys and levers? 

Those would all be more environmentally friendly than the heavy metals that live in your phone (though we can’t say for sure about the pixel dust).   

That’s right:  Your phone depends on heavy metals like cadmium and lead to function.  And when the phone has served its purpose and decides it’s time for its soul to go to e-heaven, those heavy metals could contaminate the environment if that phone is unceremoniously tossed in the trash.   

It’s not just phones that cause heavy metal pollution when disposed of improperly — computer components, monitors, printers, tablets, smart devices (like watches), and their batteries  all contain substances that, when they come into contact with soil and water, create dangerous environmental conditions.  It’s called “e-waste,” and it is responsible for over two-thirds of the heavy metals that are found in landfills. 

That may sound vaguely ominous — but the public health impact is very real. Heavy metals in landfills leach into groundwater and are associated with high rates of cancer and birth defects.  Makes you wish that pixel dust were really a thing, doesn’t it? 

So, these devices (like phones, watches, monitors and old TVs) are easy to bury in a dumpster, but we beg you: Please don’t be tempted to just pitch old electronics.   

The better idea is to recycle.  Recycling is easier than ever, with dozen of locations throughout Chicagoland to drop off your recyclable materials.   

E-waste Centers

Learn more about what you can recycle and why here: 

And find a drop-off location by putting your zip code in here: 

Here’s the DuPage County Online Recycling Guide: 

And information for Cook County recycling is here: 

If you’re holding on to old electronics because you’re concerned about your data getting into the wrong hands, you can read here about data removal from old electronics: 

And finally, World Environment Day is a real observance — we didn’t just make it up.  You can read about that here: 

We leave you with a closing thought:  Why not celebrate World Environment Day by actually enjoying the environment?  Put the phone down and get outside.  Take your kids to the park.  Go for a walk.  Enjoy the sunshine.  Your phone and laptop won’t mind at all.