Make your holidays green by recycling waste, trees


There’s been lots of talk lately about going “green” - encouraging people to build homes and projects with sustainable materials, buy a live Christmas tree and plant it, recycle your newspapers.

Here’s one idea that’s timely as we shop and wrap gifts: When you give those new electronics devices this year, be sure to recycle the old ones.

The Environmental Protection Agency cites a National Safety Council Study from 1998 that estimated about 20 million computers became obsolete in one year. “Fast forward to 2007 - that number has more than doubled according to EPA’s most recent estimates,” the EPA Web site reports.

Add televisions, DVD and CD players, computer monitors, mouses and keyboards, printers, scanners and fax machines and cell phones - to say nothing of Game Boys, Xboxes and Wiis - and think about what gets added to our landfills if we don’t recycle properly.

All that stuff is officially dubbed e-waste and it contains such metals as mercury and lead that can have detrimental effects both to us and our environment.

And we’re not just talking to individuals here: Businesses need to pay attention too.

While some reports say recycling is increasing because some states have started mandatory collection and recycling for electronics - including California, which requires consumers to pay a fee to support recycling programs - only 18 percent of e-waste was recycled in 2006-2007 according to the EPA.

Meanwhile, the agency reports “the amount of e-waste produced is growing at a rate three times faster than municipal trash.”

There are two answers to this problem: Donate your old electronic devices, whether they work or not, for reuse or repair or recycle at a local facility or recycling event.

Waste Management, which provides trash pickup in Del Mar and Solana Beach, has recycling centers – including one in Del Mar – where you can dispose of e-waste. (There is a fee for some items).

Some thrift stores take TVs and computer monitors. Goodwill takes items at many of its facilities, and there are several groups that repair computers and donate them to military families and poor families.

Nonprofits like the Helen Woodward Animal Center and the San Diego Zoo want your old cell phones.

Call first, though, because not all organization have the recourses to deal with electronic gear.

On top of that, free e-waste events are held throughout the area, some in cooperation with local companies that specialize in recycling. Look for those hosted by Recycle San Diego, which will gather e-waste from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. for the next three Saturdays at 8222 Ronson Road.

Even the Postal Service is in on the game with a free mail-back program for small electronics (and inkjet cartridges). You can find their envelopes in post offices.

So get with the program. If you don’t have time to make a donation or recycle before the holidays, put the task at the top of your New Year’s resolutions list.

And while you’re getting green, don’t forget to recycle your Christmas trees!