When you turn your old technology over to an e-cycling drive, are you sure that it's in good hands? That's what Pittsburghers may be asking themselves after a recent controversy over an e-cycling drive to benefit the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society. Basel Action Network, a global pollution watchdog, claims that e-cycler EarthECycle did not responsibly recycle the old technology collected for the event, but instead shipped it overseas to developing countries. However, EarthECycle president Jeff Nixon has stated to other media that the items were recycled in a "legal and moral way." EarthECycle did not return multiple phone calls from U.S. News. You can read BAN's report here.
Tech-recycling drives for charity, such as this one, are becoming increasingly common - so how can well-meaning consumers keep from getting duped? "It's very difficult for consumers to know," said Sarah Westervelt, e-waste project coordinator at BAN. There are, however, a few characteristics of a responsible e-cycler - and a few questions that consumers can ask the company before they drop off their old monitors and cell phones.
1. Make sure your data is secure. "Many of the email scams are coming out of Nigeria, and Lagos is where we documented huge volumes of waste with intact hard drives," said Westervelt. Clear your data on your own before you donate, but ask the company about its procedures for handling data in donated materials, to ensure that it's managed in a responsible way.
2. Good companies may charge to recycle certain items. Just because an e-cycler is asking you to pay to get rid of your TV does not mean you're being ripped off. "Responsible companies need to charge to handle this [hazardous] material in developed countries only," said Westervelt. So, if you're donating an old TV, and are asked to pay a fee for the hazardous materials, don't automatically assume the company is unscrupulous. Look into its other qualifications.
3. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. This is a good rule of thumb, said Westervelt. Some companies will offer money in exchange, but there's a chance that they can pay because they are selling the waste in a global market. So if a company promises a huge donation, check them out.
4. Use tried-and-true e-cyclers. If you want to be certain that your goods are being recycled responsibly, BAN has compiled a list of e-stewards who can be trusted to practice what they preach. Check out the list here.
5. Or, send it back to the manufacturer. Many companies will recycle their own products for free - in fact, in some states, they are required to. Check the website of the product's manufacturer to see if they offer such a program.