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Your Guide to Recycling Electronics

Phones don’t belong in landfills. Here’s what to do with your old cells, MP3 players, computers and more.

Stacks of electronics are seen piled in a recycling center

Canadians generate an estimated 725,000 tonnes of e-waste per year. The really bad news is that electronics like cellphones, laptops and DVD players often contain toxic chemicals including lead, mercury and cadmium, which can make them particularly hazardous to the environment. The good news? Thanks to electronic waste recycling programs that you can find through retail stores, charities and non-profit organizations, it’s now easier than ever to responsibly dispose of electronics in Canada. Here are some tips to get you started on your quest to live a greener lifestyle.

Retail Stores

• The next time you’re in the market for a new toy, give the outdated version back to the retailer. Best Buy offers in-store recycling stations where customers can leave items such as MP3 players, batteries, cellphones, TVs and computers for recycling. (Be sure to call or check out the store locations’ websites for details on the types of products they accept.)

• Through Apple’s Renew program, some newer iPhones and iPads can be exchanged for an Apple gift card. Older phones and iPods can be mailed back for recycling.

• Cleaning out your desk? Office supply stores such as Staples can accept everything from computers and cellphones to batteries and ink cartridges. You can even drop off old pens, markers and highlighters for recycling at many locations.

• If you won’t be trading in your old cellphone for the latest model, ask your phone service provider if they can recycle it. Most telecommunications company stores can accept phones, chargers and other accessories.

Charities/Non-Profit Organizations

• Businesses and individuals can support Industry Canada’s Computers for Schools Program, which refurbishes used computers and distributes them to schools across the country.

• Several Habitat for Humanity ReStore locations in Ontario can take more than 20 kinds of e-waste, from desktop printers and speakers to modems and even electronic typewriters. The charity then recycles the items and uses any proceeds to help build affordable housing.

Recycling Resources on the Web

• If your cast-offs still have some life left in them, check out listings on Craigslist, Kijiji or Freecycle, where you might be able to sell or donate your used electronics.

Tip: Be sure to check out the artists’ communities on Craigslist and Kijiji, where artistic types sometimes request old electronics to use in their projects.

• Arrange for the Electronic Recycling Association to pick up old electronics from your business by filling out an online form.

• The Recycle My Cell website can help you find a drop-off location for your old phone or print mailing labels to send it to a recycling centre. There are even tips on backing up your texts and photos, and erasing your personal data.

• If you’re in Ontario, find recycling FAQs, nearby drop-off locations and local electronic waste collection events on the Recycle Your Electronics website. (A few cities, including Toronto, even offer curbside disposal of electronic waste as part of their regular garbage and recycling pickup; check your town or city’s website for more info.) Seven other provinces have coordinated with the Electronic Products Recycling Association to offer recycling programs in more than 2,000 locations.

Green living is so much more than proper electronics disposal. Learn how to reduce waste at home, and get the kids to help out, too.