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Recycling your household goods

Recycling is not just for cans, newspapers and glass bottles anymore. There's a rising tide of obsolete computers, cell phones and other electronic gadgets overflowing landfills. Unworn clothing and unused appliances clog up closets and cupboards, creating even more waste. What can you do as a concerned citizen of Planet Earth?

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  • Start by purchasing durable, long-lasting goods. For instance, avoid buying paper napkins or disposable diapers. Buy cloth ones.
  • Similarly, when you buy electronic gear, buy something that you'll grow into -- not something you'll grow out of in a short time.
  • When shopping for appliances, choose quality over a cheaper piece of merchandise that will have to be replaced in a short time.
  • Reuse items by repairing them, donating them to charity or selling them.
  • Find ways to recycle goods once they can no longer be used. You may be accustomed to taking your old aluminum cans to your town's recycling bins, but what do you do with your obsolete PC? Look into computer manufacturers' recycling programs to dispose of it, in an environmentally safe manner, rather than adding to the heavy metal and toxic waste of your local landfill.
  • Below are some tips on how to find a new home for your discarded gear. Not only will it free up space in your home, you can sometimes earn some extra cash by selling unwanted items. Or you can donate them to a charity -- and gain a tax deduction at the same time.

    Disposing of e-waste
    Electronic waste, or e-waste, is defined as unwanted or discarded computers, monitors, televisions, faxes, cell phones and other home electronics. It's a growing problem. Consumers are throwing out an average of 130 million cells phone a year, according to the National Safety Council.

    According to statistics found on eBay's Rethink Project Web site, in the three years ending in 2006, some 400 million computers will be replaced worldwide. Meanwhile, more than 75 percent of all computers ever sold haven't been disposed of at all; they are stockpiled in our closets, garages, offices and warehouses, a potential future threat to the environment.

    Many regions and states offer eCycling programs or have rules about the disposal of obsolete electronic gear. To find out about your area's requirements, visit the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's site at epa.gov/ecycling/live.htm. Each state lists guidelines for e-waste disposal, as well as information about regional collection events or electronic recyclers.

    Computer makers offer solutions
    When you're in the market for a new computer, check with the manufacturer of the computer that you are replacing to see if they have any programs in place for recycling.

    Many manufacturers do sponsor such programs. Apple, Dell, Gateway, Hewlett-Packard and IBM offer recycling, leasing or trade-in programs for used PCs. Apple even has a trade-in program for iPods. Epson has a recycling program for its used computer hardware, including printers, scanners and projectors.

    With trade-in programs, you get a discount on a new computer when you bring in your old one. For example, Gateway's rebate program gives money back to people who trade in their computer when buying a Gateway. On the other hand, recycling programs -- where the manufacturer is disposing of your old PC in an environmentally correct manner -- will cost you. IBM, for example, charges about $30, includ

     
     
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