How Can You Responsibly Recycle Electrical Wiring Waste?

October 5, 2021
Electrical Wire Disposal in Seattle, WA

Electrical wiring waste includes power and extension cords but also the wiring used in homes, vehicles and more. There are a number of important reasons to recycle these items. Such waste is generally not permitted at most landfills, and even when it is, it takes up valuable space that will not easily or soon be recovered. These items can also result in toxic substances when burned. Recycling wiring waste can actually save a significant amount of energy that can be used to power homes, power tools and vehicles. Wiring waste often contains resources, such as copper, that are valuable and in high demand. With all this in mind, let us consider the do’s and don’t’s of recycling your electrical wiring waste.

EPA Guidelines

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency includes electrical wiring waste in the e-waste category, which is also called e-scrap and is often used to refer to consumer electronics but encompasses all items electrical in nature. E-waste is a global problem, and the EPA continues to work with organizations throughout the world to establish its guidelines. The EPA stresses that wiring waste should be reused and repurposed as much as possible. The reason for this is that recycling cables require that the wire be separated from the insulation, and that process—called chopping in the industry—consumes considerable energy. If cables cannot be repurposed, then they should be separated, and since this is not a practical task for the average end-user, consumers should ensure that the cables are delivered to a facility that processes e-waste appropriately.

State and Local Laws

It is important to note that while the EPA provides recommendations, there is no federal law that mandates or governs recycling. These laws are generally established at the state level and further refined by local governments. In King County, for instance, it is discouraged but legal to put electrical wiring waste in the trash whereas it is illegal in the city of Seattle. You should investigate your local laws to determine what your responsibilities are and what resources are available to you.

Avoid Using Municipal Trash or Recycling Services

In order to recycle electrical wiring waste responsibly, you never want to use your local trash or recycling services. Even in the parts of King County where it is allowed, doing so has a negative impact on the environment. The only exception to this advice is if you have access to a municipal recycling service that explicitly offers an e-waste option, but this is not yet common throughout much of the U.S.

Reuse or Repurpose

The ideal way to handle electrical wiring waste is to reuse or repurpose it. Many electrical cords can work with a wide range of devices, and every home can do with a well-organized box in the garage that contains bundled cords. You never know when one electrical cord may fail and you need another to replace it. When possible, you can also repurpose, which is often referred to as upcycling. Do a search online about upcycling to find a lot of great ideas from people who have used electrical cords for practical purposes in their garages, workshops, gardens, birdbath areas and so forth.

Sell It

There is a market for just about anything when it comes to consumer products. You may be surprised at how fast a box of assorted cables sells. You can sell these cables online through a local marketplace, which means that you do not even need to ship them. You can simply meet with the person, and perform the exchange. While selling cables may not make you a lot of money, the $20 to $100 is not unreasonable and you rid yourself of the unwanted items.

Donate It

You can also donate it, which is a great way to get rid of the cables even faster than selling them. Get in contact with your local Goodwill. Many Goodwill locations actually accept wiring waste because they can repurpose it, and they have an entire network available to them in which to do that. Even if your local Goodwill cannot accept it, they may be able to point you to a local organization that can.

Retail Location Drop-Off

Many businesses—in particular those who specialize in consumer electronics—accept e-waste for free as a service to their communities. A prominent example of this is Best Buy, which accepts e-waste drop-off in Seattle and at most if not all locations throughout the U.S. If you are unsure which retail locations offer a drop-off box in your area, you can contact your local chamber of commerce. They should be able to direct you to a listing of all businesses that can accept your e-waste at no charge.

Take It to an E-Waste Recycling Center

There are at least a half dozen recycling centers in Seattle that accept e-waste. That number doubles if you extend your search to locations throughout the Puget Sound area. Such centers are becoming more commonplace throughout the U.S., so if you live outside the Seattle area, you should have no problem finding a location near you, particularly if you are within reasonable driving distance of a city. Most of these locations accept drop-offs at no charge. There are exceptions, but the fee for electrical wiring waste is usually nominal. Many of these centers can pick up as well, but the fee will be more significant.

Separate and Recycle Individually

If you do not have the option of an e-waste recycling center and have some time on your hands, you can recycle yourself. Using a wire stripper, you can separate the plastic from the wire. You can then recycle the wire and other metal through any location that accepts scrap metal, and there should have scrap metal centers available to you no matter where you live. In many cases, the plastic can then be recycled through your municipal recycling service.

Use an E-Waste Solution Locator Online

There are various search tools online that will help you find a solution that is in close proximity to your home. A great example of this is Earth911. What began as an Arizona-centric recycling database more than 20 years ago has evolved into the largest recycling database for the entire U.S. You can search based on your zip code, the type of e-waste you have and how far you are willing to travel. You can also search for mail-in and pick-up options to make your recycling experience even easier. If you wish not to pay to recycle, you can also eliminate all results that have a fee involved.

Electrical Expertise for the Puget Sound Area

Brennan Electric has served Seattle and the surrounding areas for more than 30 years. Our company offers a wide range of electric services, including electric repair, electric panels, lighting installation, whole-house surge protection and smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. We also install and service generators for residential and commercial locations. Call us today or contact us online with any questions about the services we offer or to schedule an appointment or on-site consultation.

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