Sorting through an estate last month, I came upon a desk whose top had apparently not seen the light of day for at least a decade. It was piled high with receipts, papers and junk mail. I shuddered as I opened the drawers to see what was inside them. Drawer number one was filled with pencils, paperclips and odds and ends. Drawer number two set me on my heels: it was filled with various hand-held electronic devices, chargers and cords. The contents of the second drawer I inventoried fell in the “problematic” category, along with all the decedent’s obsolete games, stereos, computers, cell phones, toner cartridges, rechargeable batteries and other potentially toxic waste.
This scenario is becoming increasingly common when I evaluate estates for probate. Not too long ago items like those listed above could be given to Goodwill or a charity shop. Some of them could even be thrown in the trash. Not anymore. Thirty-five U.S. states have laws—existing or pending—that govern the disposition of electronic waste (e-waste). In nineteen U.S. states and many municipalities it’s illegal to dump e-waste in landfills.
How about you? Are you accumulating outdated electronics around your house? It’s easy to do: you get a new phone or a new laptop and set the old one aside to deal with later (I’m guilty of this). According to BCC Research, “e-waste will soon become the most pressing environmental problem of the 21st century. In 2012 alone, consumers around the world purchased 238.5 million TVs, 444.4 million computers and tablets and 1.75 billion mobile phones. Most of us discard such items within three years of purchase, and this is driving the global growth in e-waste by some eight percent a year.”
A cell phone’s circuit board contains aluminum, beryllium, copper, gold, lead, mercury, nickel and zinc. One-hundred thousand cell phones contain approximately 2.4 kilograms of gold, more than 900 kg. of copper, and 25 kg. of silver, among other valuable materials. A cell phone’s circuit board contains aluminum, beryllium, copper, gold, lead, mercury, nickel and zinc. One-hundred thousand cell phones contain approximately 2.4 kilograms of gold, more than 900 kg. of copper, and 25 kg. of silver, among other valuable materials.
Because materials for manufacturing electronics are becoming scarcer each year, I suspect that the quantity of e-waste will slow as prices for electronic devices rise. As prices rise, consumers tend to hold on to products longer. Some progress is being made to reclaim the rare materials found in most electronic products, but currently, only about 15 percent of the valuable materials in e-waste are recovered. Among the efforts being made to increase this percentage are entrepreneurs who are actually mining the gold and precious metals from dumps, a practice known as “urban mining.”
Urban mining isn’t the stuff of science fiction; it’s here and it’s growing. It’s estimated that landfills in Japan currently contain a two-year world supply of gold, silver, indium and platinum. Belgium established the first landfill mine in 2014. Mining rare metals from a landfill is both cheaper than traditional mining and provides a larger return on investment. Belgium established the first landfill mine in 2014. Mining rare metals from a landfill is both cheaper than traditional mining and provides a larger return on investment.
Although the U.S. has not passed any national legislation regarding e-waste, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency website links to various resources for disposing of outdated electronics. Some retailers, such as Staples, Best Buy, Sprint and Dell, offer in-store and recycling event return options. Manufacturers such as Panasonic, LG, Samsung and Sony offer mail-in options. Permanent drop-off sites are offered by both retailers and manufacturers. A list of who-takes-what can be found here.
Here are a few more options to help you find e-waste recycling options in your area:
If you’d like to get rid of old phones and want to make a few bucks in the process, eBay (from time to time) offers special rates on commissions and fees for those wanting to sell their old phones rather than recycle them.
Hoarding old electronics is a bad idea on several levels, so if you have some, it’s best to make arrangements for its disposal as soon as possible. There are more disposal options available now than there have ever been.
Previously published by WorthPoint.com http://www.worthpoint.com/blog-entry/the-executors-dilemma-what-to-do-with-old-electronics
Originally posted 2015-10-27 10:51:24.