Living Green: Digital Detritus

Electronic devices dump site. E-waste disposal, management, reuse, recycle and recovery concept. Electronic consumerism, globalization, raw material source concept.

I’m no first adopter: I am several iPhone models behind, and I keep my laptops until they die. But my family and I have still managed to rack up an impressive amount of e-waste, which can have a significant impact on the environment when it ends up in landfills.

The first step to most human-made problems is to reduce; in this case, reduce the electronic gadgets you buy new. The next best thing is to repair and/or reuse. I recently sent my 3-year-old Microsoft Surface Pro for repair. It was no longer under warranty but, rather than buying a new one, I paid a few hundred dollars and it works again.

If you must replace, consider refurbished machines from sites such as or

To dispose of an older computer, consider two routes: You can donate it to organizations such as The IT Club (, which will fix it for students or adults in need. (Eamon Wall, a student at Haldane Middle School, is the New York state representative.) Or, most common electronics can be at least partially recycled, since they’re made largely of metal and contain minerals such as graphite and cobalt that are in short supply. See or For example, I typed in “lithium ion batteries” and my ZIP code at Earth911 and learned I can deposit them at Staples, Home Depot or Best Buy.

I’ve found Staples generally takes everything (see 

Municipal collection programs are hit and miss. Putnam County at one time collected e-waste but stopped a few years ago. Beacon is looking for a new partner after its hauler, Royal Carting, stopped accepting e-waste. Dutchess County runs three e-waste collection events annually but they are in Poughkeepsie; require registration (and a $10 fee); and are limited to the first 400 households. (Registration opens Aug. 30 for the next event; see  

Philipstown started collecting “anything with a power cord” in January as a pilot program, and residents were enthusiastic, with more than 40 pallets filled in five months, according to Town Board Member Robert Flaherty. The town paid Supreme Asset Management and Recycling in New Jersey about $1,000 to retrieve the loads from the town dump on Lane Gate Road off Route 9. (The facility, which is open Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., also accepts food scraps, paper, plastic and metal.)

The Philipstown e-waste program continues but residents now must contribute to disposal costs by paying a fee for each item at Town Hall during weekday business hours before leaving their items on Saturdays.

The fees are $1 for a keyboard, mouse or cellphone; $3 for electrical appliances such as microwaves or vacuums; $5 for DVD players, printers and scanners; $10 or $15 for computers; and $20 or $25 for televisions and computer monitors.

Flaherty is enthusiastic about bringing back the service. “We are trying to be a Climate Smart community and doing the best we can to make our environment better here,” he said.

One thought on “Living Green: Digital Detritus

  1. Calling this stuff “e-waste” is an acceptance of our unwillingness to engage the issue in any reasonable or responsible way. Far from being waste, many of these devices could be repaired or otherwise con-tain a wealth of useful components that could be reclaimed. Just looking at the stock photo accompanying this article, I see a stereo receiver with potentiometers and LEDs, computer monitors with high-voltage capacitors, speakers and cabling, laser printers with motors, limit switches, AC and DC power supply, etc.

    Directly engaging this issue through local education, collection, repair and salvage efforts could benefit our community in so many ways. I’m trying to start this process in Beacon. See

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