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5 Tips To Help Reduce and Properly Recycle Electronic Waste

For when you get a new [insert electronic device]

Getting new gadgets is always exciting. Whether it's a cell phone, an electric toothbrush, or even a blender, it's fun to learn all about the new features. But, what happens to the old ones? If it still works, maybe you resell it, or it goes to a friend, or Goodwill. Other times, it ends up in a drawer with all the old cords you keep around just in case (like that one to plug your old digital camera into your laptop - oh wait, you laptop doesn't have ports anymore… but you never know!). For all of the items that don't end up in either of those categories, many of them end up being thrown out and becoming e-waste.

As technology keeps improving and advancing at a lightning fast pace and electronics become harder to repair, the larger the amount of e-waste will become. So, what does that mean for us and the planet?


Well, a couple of things. E-waste can be both a precious resource and a dangerous source of pollution, depending on where it ends up and how it is processed. All of our precious electronic devices are full of special materials like copper and gold, but also some scarier metals like cadmium, lead, and mercury. They also release other toxics including flame retardants, PDBEs, PCBs, dioxins, PAHs, which are either added as they are produced or created as they are used.

If e-waste is recycled properly, it can be taken apart responsibly and the metals can be reclaimed and handled in a safe manner. But, if the items are thrown in the trash or recycled in informal ways (like by families halfway across the world who find them in dumps), they can become dangerous- for the person doing the recycling and for the environment.

E-waste has been associated with health risks including changes to thyroid function, fetal malformation, still birth, changes to DNA, reduced lung function, neurobehavioral changes, and premature birth (1,2). These health risks are worse for those who come into direct contact with the e-waste (like those collecting and recycling it for parts). But the worry goes beyond just that. As the e-waste sits in landfills, toxics also seep out from the items and collect in our soil, water and food (1,2,3,4). The effects are known to be worse for children because they are more sensitive and take in more compared to their body weight (little bodies breath in more oxygen and drink more water per pound than bigger bodies)(1,2,3).

So, what are some ways you can help reduce e-waste and ensure that what you do get rid of is processed safely?

1. Research trade in programs and get money for your old electronics.

Many companies and retailers, like Apple, Samsung, Amazon, Walmart, and Target will take back (or buy-back, even better!) old electronics. There are also independent buyback websites like GreenBuyBack, Gazelle, and BuyBackWorld that are also great options.

2. Recycle responsibly.

Many of those same trade in program will take broken electronics and responsibly recycle them. Other stores, like BestBuy, also offer recycling programs so they can appropriately dismantle the tech and reuse the relevant parts. You can find other certified electronics recyclers that meet specific standards to safely recycle and manage electronics through the Responsible Recycling ("R2") Standard by SERI and e-Stewards.

3. Look for charities seeking donations of old gadgets.

Just because it's not of use to you anymore doesn't mean it wouldn't be helpful for someone else. Charities often are grateful for old electronics that are still in working order like Computers with Causes or Cell Phones for Soldiers.

4. Fix what you already have.

It may sound old fashioned, but you'd be surprised what you can still fix instead of buying new. Think things like swapping out the battery in your smartphone, fixing laptop components, or going to an old fashioned repair shop for things like a vacuum cleaner or other appliances.

5. Think before you buy.

Instead of rushing to buy a new thing as soon as it is released, take a moment to consider it. Do you need it right now? Or if it's a specialty item you don't think you will use often (like a carpet cleaner or crockpot) see if you can rent one or borrow from a friend or neighbor. We aren't saying never get a new phone or don't buy that instant pot you have been eyeing and thinking about for months now. We're just advocating for thinking about it first.


References:

  1. https://www.who.int/ceh/risks/ewaste/en/
  2. https://www.thelancet.com/journals/langlo/article/PIIS2214-109X(13)70020-2/fulltext
  3. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2214109X13701013
  4. https://www.consumerreports.org/recycling/how-to-recycle-electronics/
Roundups

The 13 Best Non-Toxic Baby Sunscreens

Well reviewed, easy to find, and super safe for your little one

It's finally here! We've rounded up the best 13 non-toxic sunscreens baby sunscreens just in time for all your outdoor adventures. We took into account ingredient safety, as well as reviews from parents, and availability at major retailers. Trust us that these options will not result in a goopy disappointment. All 13 of these non-toxic baby sunscreens are safe for baby, toddlers, kids (and you!) and are free from harmful chemicals. They are all reef safe too! Many of these brands also make a stick that can be a lot easier for face application if your baby is extra squirmy, so make sure to check those out too. Hope this makes your summer to-do list just a bit easier!

a) Adorable Baby SPF 30 Sunscreen, b) All Good Kid's Sunscreen SPF 30, c) Aveeno Baby Continuous Protection Sensitive Skin Sunscreen SPF 50 d) Babo Botanicals Baby Skin Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50, e) Badger Baby Natural Mineral Sunscreen Cream SPF 30, f) Bare Republic Baby Mineral Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50, g) California Baby Super Sensitive Sunscreen Lotion SPF 30, h) Coola Baby Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50, i) Made Of Baby Sunscreen SPF 30, j) Sunblocz Baby and Kids Sunscreen SPF 50, k) Thinkbaby Safe Sunscreen SPF 50, l) Tom's of Maine Baby Sunscreen Lotion SPF 30, m) Totlogic Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30


Because Health is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program so that when you click through our Amazon links, a percentage of the proceeds from your purchases will go to Because Health. We encourage you to shop locally, but if you do buy online buying through our links will help us continue the critical environmental health education work we do. Our participation does not influence our product recommendations. To read more about how we recommend products, go to our methodology page.

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Food

Endless Ideas for Healthy Homemade Popsicles (No Recipe Needed!)

A refreshing family friendly treat, without added food colorings, cane sugar, or plastic packaging.

Popsicles are such a fun treat for adults and kids whenever it gets hot outside! We put together a fun graphic where you can make your own recipe for a healthy homemade popsicle, using whatever you have on hand. We make all sorts of popsicles from leftover fruit, veggies, juices that we have laying around. It's a great way to use up that half of a banana or browning avocado that your kid didn't eat. And instead of becoming food waste (which is a huge contributor to climate change), it gets new life as an amazing treat. We like these silicone or stainless steel popsicle molds, cause they are super durable and we generally try to avoid plastics and food. Making your own popsicles is a great way to have fun, while being non-toxic. Many store bought popsicles contain load of cane sugar, food colorings, other additives, and plastic packaging. So pick one up a popsicle mold, choose a combination of tasty ingredients, blend, freeze, and enjoy!

In case you need some ideas to get started, here are some of our favorites:

Chocolate Fudge: Cocoa powder, avocado (or banana), coconut milk, and honey/maple syrup

Watermelon Strawberry Mint: Watermelon, Strawberries, Coconut water, and Mint

Spinach Blueberry Yogurt: Spinach, Blueberry, Banana, and Yogurt

Creamy Zucchini Pineapple: Zucchini, Pineapple, and Coconut milk

*A special tip on mixing colors. Mixing leafy greens with red or orange fruits/veggies (like carrot juice or strawberries) makes for a pretty brown popsicle. It will still taste good, but might not look as appetizing!


Roundups

Non-Toxic Aftershaves

Cause who wants questionable chemicals on a freshly shaven face?

Whether aftershave is part of your shaving routine for the manly (and fabulous!) scents or to help your skin recover, you probably don't want an aftershave with questionable ingredients or preservatives. This is especially true because the main purpose of aftershave is to calm down any skin irritation and disinfect any small nicks (oops!) you accidentally gave yourself. We also included two options for witch hazel toners that are an all natural, affordable option that calms inflammation and disinfects. We found 7 non-toxic aftershaves and witch hazel toners that have good ingredients, good reviews, and are easy to buy at major retailers. So pick up one up and incorporate it into your morning routine and your skin will thank you!

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Family

5 Easy Changes to Protect Your Sperm from Harmful Chemicals

Keep your swimmers safe with these science-based tips

Hey, guys, yeah all you sperm producing humans out there. Hate to break it to you, but when it comes to different chemicals in our world, your little swimmers might not be as safe as you think. While it's true that you continually are creating new sperm, if you are exposed to some of these nasty things on a regular basis, chances are high that they are affecting both the quality and quantity of your sperm. Even if you aren't planning to have a kid right now, these things could make it harder for you to conceive a kid in the future and research has linked sperm health to overall health. But, hang tight. We have some super simple suggestions for ways to change up your routine that can protect your sperm for years to come.

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Home

What to Know Before Your Next Big DIY Project

Protect your health without sacrificing creativity!

Whether you're inspired by a recent Etsy binge or are a Weekend Warrior who practically lives at Home Depot, DIY projects can be super fun and fulfilling. Before you get started on your next project, we have some tips on what chemicals to avoid, the safety hazards they pose, and ways to keep yourself safe.




Avoid Methylene chloride

It's always fun to spruce up furniture with a new coat of paint but methylene chloride, a seriously dangerous chemical, is found in paint stripping products. In the body methylene chloride turns into carbon monoxide (1), and too much carbon monoxide can cause dizziness, confusion, and asphyxia. Methylene chloride fumes quickly accumulate and are heavier than air, which means workers bending down over projects in poorly ventilated areas are easily susceptible to the dangers of this chemical (2). There have been many accidental deaths from Methylene chloride, so you should completely avoid paint strippers that use it. Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families has created a great reference on safer alternative for paint strippers.

Paint

Before you pick up your paint brush to tackle that dresser revamp, make sure the paint you're using is low VOCs. VOCs, or volatile organic compounds, are chemicals that are emitted as gasses from products like paint and can cause headaches, eye irritation, and nausea (3). VOCs are part of the reason paint can be so smelly when it's drying! Look for a paint that says low or no VOCs on the packaging and make sure to keep the windows open while the paint is drying!

Wood Stains

Updating your wood table or decking? Reach for a water-based wood stain or finish! Traditional wood stains can contain harsh chemicals and emit a ton of VOCs. Luckily a lot of brands have a VOC rating on their label, which makes choosing a product a lot easier. We recommend choosing a stain with low VOCs (under 250 g/l) that is also Green Seal 11 (GS-11) certified (4).

Always Have Proper Ventilation

This is key for any DIY project. Chances are, you'll probably use some chemicals that are not great for you during your project. The best place to work on your project is outside but if you have to work indoor, make sure to open windows and doors, and use a fan to ventilate the area.

Wear a Protective Mask

DIY projects can expose you to a TON of dust, which is why it's a good idea to always wear a protective mask. Dust is bad for you in general, and can also contain particles containing toxic chemicals, which is why we recommend using an N95 mask while working. Normal masks can help protect you, but they don't protect you from all dust. N95 masks filter even the tiniest particles (0.3 microns) (5), which can keep you safe during those extremely messy projects.




  1. https://saferchemicals.org/get-the-facts/chemicals-of-concern/methylene-chloride/
  2. https://prheucsf.blog/2017/11/14/risky-paint-stripper-will-continue-to-kill-while-epa-delays/
  3. https://www.epa.gov/indoor-air-quality-iaq/volatile-organic-compounds-impact-indoor-air-quality#Levels
  4. https://www.ewg.org/healthyhomeguide/wood-stains-a...
  5. https://www.fda.gov/medical-devices/personal-protective-equipment-infection-control/masks-and-n95-respirators

Now that you've invested in some glass and stainless steel food storage containers, maybe you're wondering if you should Marie Kondo all the plastic ones you used to use? Instead adding them to the landfill, what if we told you that all those plastic containers can help you achieve a new level of organization zen? While we don't recommend storing food in them anymore (for those of you who haven't heard: these plastic food storage containers often have BPA or phthalates in them, which can leach into your food over time and cause all sorts of health problems), we also don't think you have to throw them away.

So, what can you do? We have 6 great suggestions for you to repurpose those containers throughout your home.



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Roundups

6 Non-Toxic and Plastic-Free Shampoos

We found 5 shampoo bars and 1 refillable option

We've had a lot of asks for products with sustainable packaging. We heard you! Sustainable, non-toxic, well-reviewed products are actually harder to find than you think. Who knew? But we did a ton of research and found some great options! We searched high and wide and found these 5 non-toxic shampoo bars and one refillable shampoo that comes in an aluminum bottle. These shampoo products are a great way to reduce your plastic consumption without compromising on safe ingredients. A win-win in our book for the planet and your health!

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