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In the past few decades, the number of electronic devices manufactured, purchased, and disposed of by consumers has expanded exponentially. These devices often contain harmful chemical compounds, which, if not properly handled, can cause groundwater contamination, pollution, and toxicity to plant and animal life near dump sites. As a result, it has become very important that regions come up with programs to recycle electronics easily and cheaply, to help encourage people not to dump them with their garbage.
Many companies have taken some of the responsibility on themselves, and have built in their own programs to recycle electronics that they manufacture. Often, a product will come with instructions on how to recycle it. In other cases a new product may come with the materials needed to recycle the older product. Cellular telephones, printer cartridges, and batteries are three examples of products that often have built in recycling systems operated by the manufacturer free of charge to the consumer.
In the United States, various states have passed legislation to help people recycle electronics once they reach the end of their lifespan. Some states offer mail-in services, where you can ship things like cell phones to a central processing facility. Others have a number of facilities located throughout the state that are set up to process all sorts of electronics. Other states have general waste management facilities set up in each region, including some sort of basic system to recycle electronics.
A number of non-profit organizations have also sprung up to help fill the void in areas where the state has not provided recycling programs. Especially in urban areas, these organizations may offer incredibly convenient ways to dispose of your electronic devices without throwing them away. For example, in the San Francisco Bay Area groups like GreenCitizen offer kiosks throughout the city for recycling small electronics, and central facilities for larger electronics. They also offer pick-up services for businesses, schools, and other larger groups.
In addition to these sorts of recycling programs, many charitable organizations have sprung up to help people pass on their used electronic devices without adding them to the waste chain. In the case of items like cell phones, printers, monitors, and computers, for example, people often upgrade far more frequently than they absolutely have to. As a result, many people throw away or recycle devices that are in fine condition, and which could still be used. Public exchange spaces make it easy for people to pass on their older devices to people or groups in need, who may not mind owning a previous generation of a product.
In some cases, these groups may take on large quantities of a specific type of device, such as cell phones, and refurbish them before disbursing them to an in-need community. Most of these groups are set up as non-profit organizations, and offer receipts so that people who choose to recycle electronics in this way can get a tax deduction. This sort of reuse approach is generally favored to recycling where possible, as it helps keep devices out of the waste chain for as long as possible.
There are some companies that have sprung up around the nation that recycle electronics. A lot of those are Internet-based and require those with items to recycle to enter what they have into a Web-based system that will put a value on their items. They'll even send boxes and mailing labels to those who want to recycle electronics so getting rid of old items won't cost those who own them a dime. Once the items are received and checked, the donor will receive a check.
It's a great system, but there's a problem -- some of those companies will simply take the items and never send a check to the people who donated them. In other words, there is a risk of fraud. The best thing to do is check one of those companies out with the Better Business Bureau or through other means before sending electronics to one.