The holiday season means millions of people are decorating with lights and giving or receiving new televisions, computers, or smart phones.
Many times, that means getting rid of old electronic products that contain hazardous substances.
Proper disposal of electronic waste — or e-waste — keeps products out of landfills and provides a great opportunity for reuse, says Steve Noble, EGLE's electronics recycling specialist. That's important because electronics are made up of materials that can be toxic if released into the environment leaded glass, mercury switches, mercury bulbs, brominated flame-retardant plastics, and electronic circuitry made of cadmium, chromium, and lead.
"In the United States, 9.4 million tons of waste electronics are generated each year," Noble said. "A little less than 13 percent of that actually gets recycled. A much larger amount is simply in storage in drawers, basements and garages waiting to be recycled because people don't know where to recycle it.
"The pandemic has actually exacerbated the issue of generating electronics, as it forced households to become workplaces and learning centers and increased the need to upgrade technology. Some of our old technology can no longer keep up so it had to be changed out. The technology gap issue for schools and small businesses is even more dire."
To keep up with demand for e-waste recycling, EGLE's program has grown significantly in the past few years — especially in Michigan's rural areas. Through its grant program, it has helped communities across Michigan establish local e-waste recycling sites or hold collection events.
These collection sites collect e-waste products such as computers, printers, cell phones, holiday lights, cables, and more. By working with registered electronics recyclers, collectors can assure that these products have that reuse opportunity or at a minimum are properly recycled to protect the environment.
To find a location to properly recycle unwanted electronic waste and holiday-related items such as Christmas lights, check the Michigan Recycling Directory. EGLE's electronic recycling webpage also lists free takeback programs offered by manufacturers.