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Special Report: How to dispose of old electronic devices while keeping personal information safe

JANESVILLE (CBS 58) – It’s estimated there are 24 million pounds of electronics in Wisconsin homes. About eight million of those pounds aren’t being used.

According to a statewide survey, 50 percent of residents are not aware of the electronics disposal ban.

“We really want to keep the electronics out of the landfill because they contain a lot of precious metals that are harmful for the environment,” said Casey Schimek, Green Environmental Management program manager.

It’s not only illegal to throw away old devices it can put your private information at risk.

“If people throw their computers in landfills, they are not only exposing themselves but members of the household, everything. We treat those devices like gold, literally,” said Mac McGinnis, Universal Recycle Technologies plant manager.

But where do you go to drop it off?

Chains like Best Buy and e-recycling events are options. There are also multiple drop-off locations across the state like Veolia in Port Washington that have regular drop off hours.

“We collect about 2.9 million pounds of electronics annually,” said Kevin Shaver, Veolia general manager.

Depending on where you go, it could be free to drop off some of your electronics or it can set you back a couple dollars. Televisions and monitors that may have lead or mercury will cost about $10 or more.

Once the electronics are sorted, many devices are shipped off to be recycled.

Places like URT in Janesville shred and wipe hard drives of its information to make sure before its recycled or refurbished the information doesn’t get in the wrong hands.

“We make sure that every area that works with data is caged off and this is a secure facility as well,” said McGinnis.

Companies like Strongbox Inc. and URT can provide a certificate of data destruction once the hard drive is destroyed, if requested.

Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources officials say before you drop off your electronics know how much it will cost and where your electronics are going.

“You should feel free to ask questions to a collector, ask them where they are sending the electronic, ask them what they do to make sure there is security at their sites so your data is not at risk. Most collectors and recyclers I know who are doing a good job are very open about what’s happening,” said Sarah Murray, E-Cycle Wisconsin coordinator.

For a list of DNR approved collectors and recyclers, click here.

To find drop-off locations, click here.

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