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RISMEDIA, February 5, 2011—(MCT)—Electronic waste is on the rise in the United States at a startling rate. In fact, it is growing at nearly three times the rate of any other kind of trash. It is estimated that 85% of electronics that can be recycled or donated aren’t. Think about it. What really happens to all the cell phones, computer equipment, televisions, and other electronic devices we get rid of when they break or we upgrade? Many times, we just throw them out where they are sent to a landfill. Electronics contain toxic heavy metal components like lead, cadmium, beryllium, and mercury that can pollute the environment, but they also contain valuable metals like gold, silver and copper. Instead of leaving old or broken electronics in our landfills, get those metals disposed of safely or recycled back into the next generation of electronics. It’s cost-effective for the manufacturer and the customer. And, it’s easy.

Who doesn’t have a used computer, hard drive, printer or video game players stuck in a closet around the house? Consider donating them to a local non-profit, like Goodwill. They have a partnership with Dell called “Reconnect,” where nearly 2,000 participating Goodwill locations across the U.S. will accept any brand of computer equipment and certain Microsoft products such as Xbox and Zune.

Goodwill either sells or responsibly recycles the products and all the money made is used to create job training and employment opportunities for people in your community. Goodwill will wipe all of the personal information off of working hard drives. Non-working units will have a spike drilled through the hard drive to make sure your information stays safe.

If you have computer parts hanging around, you probably also have an old cell phone or two. Eighty percent of Americans own cell phones and upgrade, on average, every year to a year and a half. There are many ways you can give one of these millions of cell phones new life. Many cell phone providers will take back your old models and recycle them for you. And, AT&T, Verizon, Motorola and Sprint are some of the companies involved in the wireless recycling network of ReCellular, one of the world’s leading recyclers and resellers of cell phones. Cell Phones for Soldiers is another organization you can donate your old cell phone to. They provide prepaid calling cards for U.S. troops stationed overseas with every donated cell phone they receive. March of Dimes, Keep America Beautiful and Call To Protect are other non-profits that collect cell phones for their missions.

So go ahead, scour your closets, garage, kitchen drawers, and anywhere else that you stash old electronics that you and your family are no longer using. Then, do your part and make sure they do some good instead of being trashed.

(c) 2011 Terri Bennett Enterprises, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.