Disposing of electronics

Imagining life without a cell phone, personal computer or television is pretty tough for most people — it’s safe to say that we cherish our electronics.

But according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Americans discarded approximately 1.9 million to 2.2 million tons of unwanted electronics in 2005, and the agency estimates that 1.5 million to 1.9 million tons ended up in landfills, with only 345,000 to 379,000 tons being recycled.

Many electronic items contain lead and mercury, along with a host of other toxic materials. Even those energy-saving CFLs contain mercury and need to be treated as hazardous materials when they finally burn out. When these items are not recycled or disposed of properly, they can poison the earth.

In Monroe County, residents can dispose of household electronics free of charge as part of the county’s Household Hazardous Waste Program. Items may be dropped off between 10 a.m and 2 p.m. at the following locations:

u Cudjoe Key Transfer Station, mile marker 21.5, first and third Wednesday of each month

u Long Key Transfer Station, MM 68, first and third Fridays of each month

u Key Largo Recycling Yard, mile marker 100.3, second Wednesday of each month

Businesses are required to pay a tipping fee or arrange for their own transporter.

For another option, Tom Crane-Baker, manager of the Office Depot at 10950 Overseas Highway in Marathon, said Office Depot stores nationwide are also serving as a depository for unwanted electronics. Customers can stop by the stores in Marathon or Key Largo and purchase a box (from $5 to $15 depending upon the size) and fill it with electronics they no longer want. They then return the box to the store and Office Depot will properly recycle all the items inside.

For more information about Office Depot’s technology recycling program, call 289-7751.

To see a list of other companies — some with local offices — partnering with the EPA to properly dispose of consumer electronics, visit