Consumers' Checkbook: Experts discuss proper methods for electronic recycling

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Out with the old and in with the new is what many do with technology. But some ask, where do those old electronics end up?

In 2019, experts say only 15% of electronic waste produced in the U.S. was collected for proper recycling.

And getting rid of your old electronics the right way is important for three reasons: To protect the planet, protect people who end up handling the devices, and protect your personal information.

"It's hard to know what to do with this stuff. And you really should be careful in how you recycle it," said Kevin Brasler of Consumers' Checkbook.

Not only do you have to make sure you wipe your device safely of your information, but you also need to make sure you're not harming the environment or people in the process.

The material on the inside of devices can be toxic to the planet and those working with them.

Consumers' Checkbook said the retail industry has had a checkered past when dealing with discarded electronics.

"For many years, electronics were sent abroad to developing countries that weren't really equipped to handle them. And they used child laborers or people who were being paid little or even no money to pick through these things and pull out the materials that still had value," Brasler said.

The creation of two voluntary certification programs has helped change that. They are "e-Stewards" and "responsible recycling" or "R-2". Checkbook said both have pretty stringent standards but said e-Stewards goes a step further.

"What's best about the e-stewards program is they audit these retailers at these recyclers. They put little trackers, they hide trackers in items and send them through the recycling stream to see where they end up," he said.

That's, of course, to make sure they are ending up in the correct spot.

Both e-Stewards and R2 have websites where you can find certified recycling facilities in your area.

According to Checkbook, companies with responsible recycling programs include Best Buy, Samsung, and Staples.

You can also donate or re-sell your old devices to the manufacturer, retailer, or a third party.
Copyright © 2021 WPVI-TV. All Rights Reserved.