Is it Legal to Throw Away Electronics?

It is no surprise that Americans love their electronic devices. From TVs to desktops and laptops, iPhones to tablets, and everything in between, these innovative computing machines are a part of our everyday lives. Tech research company Gartner estimates that as many as 1.5 billion cell phones were purchased in 2017. Unless older models are traded in for new ones, however, each of these items reaches the end of its useful life and becomes electronic waste. The United Nations reported that in 2016, as much as 44.7 tons of electronic waste was thrown away with only 20% of that being discarded by the proper method.

What is Electronic Waste (e-Waste?)

e-Waste is basically any tool or device powered by electricity or batteries. Examples of devices that would fall under the category of e-waste include fax machines, cell phones, printers, computers, monitors, radios, TVs, stereo systems, and video game systems. Simply put, if you can plug it into an outlet or operate it with a battery, it is likely an electronic device.

Because all of these tech accessories contain metals (like lead, mercury, and cadmium) that can be toxic to the environment if thrown away, at least 25 states in the nation have passed legislation requiring consumers to recycle old electronics. Beyond state law, it is illegal to toss these in the trash, according to the federal government, specifically the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

How You can Help the Earth

Thankfully, you do not have to store your old electronics at home indefinitely in hopes of avoiding breaking federal law. Instead, there are several companies that are EPA-approved that provide electronic recycling options for consumers. So, no matter where in the United States you live, there is a safe method for getting rid of your electronic waste. Before tossing anything out, be sure to erase all of your personal information properly. Once that is done you can:

  • Bring it to your local electronic recycler: Local communities and nonprofits across the country offer options for consumers to recycle old electronics. Some, like Call2Recycle.org, even offer drop off locations for cell phones and rechargeable batteries. Many towns and cities also sponsor collection days for old electronics;

  • Donate your old electronics: If the device still works (or even if it does not), there is likely a nonprofit that will take it off of your hands to reuse in whole or in part. Be sure to get a receipt from the organization so you can deduct your donation on your tax return;

  • Offer it to a tech firm: Many manufacturers and retailers of electronic devices offer great recycling programs. Some big companies that participate in these programs include Apple, Best Buy, Sprint, Amazon, Office Depot, and Staples.

While recycling electronics may be free in many situations, there may be fees imposed in other circumstances due to the amount of labor required to dispose of certain materials found in them. The good news is that recycled electronics can get a second life. Some can be turned into new electronic devices while others can be made into new products. For example, precious metals such as platinum and gold can be extracted from these devices and melted into other items such as art, jewelry, metal plates, and more.

If you have questions about recycling laws or any other legal matter in the state of Nevada, reach out to a knowledgeable attorney for help. Contact Parry & Pfau today.

(image courtesy of Tina Rataj Berard)