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You got a new present? Here's how you recycle your old electronic gear

Recycling electronic devices (e-waste) is not a simple process in Michigan, but here's where you can navigate the process.
Lester Graham
Michigan Radio
Recycling electronic devices (e-waste) is not a simple process in Michigan, but here's how you can navigate the process.

The holidays might mean new electronics in your house. Maybe the old stuff ends up in a closet or your garage with all the other old monitors, hard drives, and cell phones. But, that electronic waste can be recycled. There are valuable materials in some of that gear.

“And the best way to recycle it is to use a certified or responsible recycler. Somebody that’s going to take the material and make sure that the majority of it is recycled,” said Steven Noble, the coordinator for the e-waste program at the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy.

More of those recyclers are being established, so it’s getting easier to recycle e-waste in Michigan, but it's still not easy.

Michigan has fairly weak and outdated laws.

“We came real close this last year in updating our law. We worked with manufacturers to try and put in place what was called the ‘convenience model,’” Noble explained.

That model is being used by Illinois and South Carolina. It sets up a minimum number of collection sites broken down by geographic areas such as towns or cities.

This link will take you to the Michigan Electronic Waste Takeback Program’s FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions).

Under Michigan law, manufacturers are required to take back some old electronics, those that are termed a “covered device.” Most of them accept that gear by mail for free. This document lists manufacturers and has links to each company’s process for returning recyclable electronics.

“Now, that’s a little hard to do with the old, say, a 27-inch box TV. You’re not going to find a box or you’re not going to find a UPS driver that’s going to want to put that on his truck and haul it back to the place to ship it to the recycler,” Noble conceded.

The alternative is to take your e-waste to drop off locations scattered around the state. This link will take you to the Michigan Recycling Directory which is an interactive map that will help you find a place (hopefully) nearby that will accept your particular kind of electronics for recycling.

And here’s one more link specifically for cell phones or cell phone batteries.

Noble said there are some good companies in the state that are not on the registry and do things the right way. For example, you’ll want a recycler who is sure to protect your data, erase a hard drive and take other protections to correctly recycle your old electronics. Your best bet is to ask someone you trust if they know of such a business.

Some of the sites are free. But, you should be prepared to pay a little for the recycling services at some other drop off sites.

Noble said the best thing to do is to make sure you get those old electronics out of your house. It’s better for the planet and ultimately the price of new electronics if you recycle them.

Lester Graham reports for The Environment Report. He has reported on public policy, politics, and issues regarding race and gender inequity. He was previously with The Environment Report at Michigan Public from 1998-2010.
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