How To: School your class on e-waste disposal

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While it’s always better to hang on to your working devices for as long as possible to cut down on e-waste, we get that you have to keep up with the cutting edge. Make sure you’re upgrading in green style, and teach your classmates to do the same. Run a workshop for your peers on chucking electronics, or ask a teacher of a younger grade if you can come in and lead a workshop for their younger students. Here’s how:

  1. Ask for permission and set a date. If you’re planning to use school time for the activity, check to see if you can lead a science class, homeroom period, or assembly for a day. If you just want to grab a group of friends and classmates after school or on a weekend, organize a meeting place and time to gather (tip: snacks always help, bake a batch of cookies!) You can also hang fliers to promote an after school seminar on safely getting rid of electronics.
  2. Start schoolin ‘em. Show up at your session armed with info on a display board (like a blackboard or large pad). Begin the session by asking your buds or other students, “Do you know what happens to your old phone, computer, TV, printer, etc, when you upgrade to a new one?” Write down (or enlist a helper to write) their responses on the board.
  3. Define it. Explain to the group that old electronic items that have been thrown out are technically called e-waste.
  4. Explain it. Explain why electronics can’t be recycled like paper, plastic, and some metals. Here’s the gist: some parts of electronics are hard to recycle because they contain different sorts of material that need to be separated and/or may be dangerous to handle in the recycling process. Here’s a good explanation to read to the crowd:
  • Recycling electronics involves collecting the electronics that would otherwise be considered waste, sorting and processing their components into resources, and manufacturing those resources into new products. Items such as paper, plastic containers, and metal are typically a single (uniform) material, while electronics are a complex product made up of many different materials that need to be separated in the recycling process.
  • Brainstorm it. Ask participants to think of other solutions for electronics disposal and write the answers on the board. Let them know that companies and recycling organizations are working towards new ways to recycle and reuse electronics.
  • Go the distance. Tell the students to do some research into e-waste facilities in their areas and to ask companies if they have recycling programs when they purchase new products (many companies will have drop-off locations where you can dump your old goods after you’ve bought new ones). Students can also research companies that don’t participate in recycling programs or that use manufacturing processes that make it harder to recycle their products and write a letter to the company to change their ways.