If Santa upgraded your computer or TV this year, he's also leaving you with a decision about what to do with your old equipment.
The problem is this: Local garbage collections and recycling depots do not take electronics because of the mercury many contain, as well as lead and other contaminants in the equipment. This is called "e-waste," and it's piling up in basements and bedroom closets all over the country.
It requires special equipment to properly recycle computers and monitors. So, many municipalities sponsor events to collect old electronics and to prevent them from being dumped at landfills, where they can leach poisons into the environment.
Drop it Off
Area community organizations and schools have collections throughout the year as well as fundraisers.
Northampton County, through the Department of Community and Economic Development, also has several collections of electronics each year, usually in May, June and October. The dates for 2012 are not yet available either.
The collections take place in the Easton High School parking lot or in the parking lot of Nazareth Intermediate School, off Tatamy Road.
It costs about $1 to recycle a CPU and about $18 for a television or old CRT monitor.
If you don't want to wait until May, Pennsylvania's Department of Environmental Protection also points to a local company, Com-Cycle, at 2330 26th St. S.W., Allentown, or its affiliate AERC, at 2591 Mitchell Ave., Allentown -- not far from the 26th Street facility.
The fees are $4 for computers and up to $22 for old CRT monitors, depending on their size.
Send It Back
Another alternative is to check with the manufacturer of your item. Many companies that sell or make cell phones and computers also have free or low-cost programs to take back your old stuff, including Apple, AT&T, Best Buy, Dell, eBay, Hewlett-Packard, LG, Motorola, NEC, Nokia, Office Depot, Samsung, Sony, Sprint, Staples, T-Mobile, Toshiba and Verizon.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's "Plug in to eCycling" program, only 15-20 percent of retired computers, TVs, cell phones and other electronic devices are being recycled. The rest are disposed of illegally or are piling up in people's homes.
So, one last alternative is to donate your computer.
The EPA, however, recommends that you donate your equipment to a refurbisher first, so the hard drives are scrubbed and the equipment can be updated enough for use in schools or by community organizations.
Here are some programs suggested by the EPA that can help you safely donate your used electronics: EcoSquid, Earth 911, My Green Electronics, Electronic Industries Alliance's Consumer Education Initiative, TechSoup and Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corporation (RBRC).
In the spirit of recycling, this article was updated from the version we ran last year.