Report: We Love Gadgets But Still Suck At Recycling Them

The cell phone just celebrated its 40th anniversary. We’ve had televisions, radios, and microwaves for way longer than that. Despite our ongoing love affair with technology of all shapes and sizes, research shows that we still can’t seem to dispose of them properly.

A recent survey of gadget owners in the United States and Canada showed that while e-waste recycling rates are growing, they’re not nearly high enough to keep up with the flood of new devices entering the market each day. Corporations like Apple have done a great job of convincing us it’s “uncool” to walk around with last year’s phone, and with lots of confusing about where and how to dispose of devices properly, they either end up in a drawer or leaching toxins in a landfill.

recycling stats Retrovo

Image via Retrovo

Almost three years ago Retrevo.com ran a survey that found over 60 percent of the households across North America weren’t recycling their electronics. The most common reason cited was they just didn’t around to it. The bad news is that the laziness or “not getting around to it,” is still the most common excuse but the good news is that it’s a lot smaller percentage of people who say they aren’t recycling electronics.

A 2013 survey of 3,604 online electronics buyers conducted by Bizrate Insights Network found that the current rate is much higher, nearly 2 out of every three respondent said they recycle old electronics. Unfortunately, those under 30 (aka the most gadget obsessed) are the worst offenders with 17 percent or them saying they just don’t get around to recycling compared to 8 percent of those over 30.

The third most common excuse for not recycling, after “don’t get around to it,” and “don’t know where to take them,” is the fact that it’s recycling is not available. But that’s more a matter of awareness than true lack of recycling options.

Online electronics recycling companies, like Gazelle, Recellular, and Call2Recycle, make it easy to turn your old phone or computer into cash, while ensuring that it’s reused or recycled responsibly. And big box stores have recently stepped up, with companies like Staples and Best Buy offering drop off locations for recycling of all types and brands of electronics.

Take action! Tell your friends about the hazardous materials lingering in their old electronics, and show them how easy (and profitable!) recycling them can be.

Beth Buczynski is a freelancer writer and editor currently living in the Rocky Mountain West. Her articles appear on Care2, Ecosalon and Inhabitat, just to name a few. So far, Beth has lived in or near three major U.S. mountain ranges, and is passionate about protecting the important ecosystems they represent. Follow Beth on Twitter as @ecosphericblog