A few years ago, the digital conversion of television began a flood of unwanted tube-based TV sets.
More recently, the mass adoption of mobile smartphones has relegated millions of older cellphones to junk drawers or the junkyard.
In Arizona, there's nothing illegal about dumping such items in the trash, though at least half the states have passed laws regulating electronic waste.
But you can help protect the environment - and in some cases help the less fortunate - by recycling your obsolete electronics.
Modern electronics carry a rogue's list of potentially hazardous materials, including lead, mercury, cadmium, beryllium, chromium and brominated flame retardants.
But only 27 percent of discarded consumer electronics was recycled in 2010, the most recent year for which the Environmental Protection Agency has data.
One of the biggest problems today are cathode-ray tube TV sets, which contain toxins including several pounds of lead in their glass but are costly to recycle. An estimated 83 percent of the 28 million TVs disposed of in 2010 were trashed rather than recycled, according to the EPA.
Many places that recycle computers and other electronics for scrap don't take tube TV sets - particularly those over 32 inches in screen size - and those that do generally charge a fee.
And it's getting harder to find a place to recycle an old TV, fee or not.
"A lot of places won't even take them, especially the large screens with the big cabinets," said Ruben Vejar, general manager of the nonprofit Rise Equipment Recycling Center.
For example, retail giant Best Buy has an extensive recycling program but won't take tube TV sets with screens bigger than 32 inches.
The Rise center takes all kinds of TVs, charging $10 each to help cover the cost of recycling.
While it's legal to throw a TV set in the trash, the city discourages it and works with Rise to recycle them, said Andrew Quigley, assistant city manager.
Besides refurbishing and recycling electronics, Rise provides vocational rehabilitation training and employment to clients of its parent nonprofit, COPE Community Services, which provides services for people with substance-abuse problems, mental illness or other behavioral or health issues.
Vejar said Rise refurbishes computers with Pentium 4 processors or better, with multi-core processors, and recycles the rest using a certified Arizona recycling firm. Computer hard drives are wiped clean of data following a Defense Department secure standard, Vejar said.
Though the volume of flat-panel TVs discarded is much lower than old cathode-ray tube sets, they can also be hazardous and should be recycled properly, experts say.
For example, most liquid-crystal display sets are illuminated by mercury lamps; plasma TVs don't use such lamps but may contain mercury, lead and other toxic substances.
The smartphone revolution has helped create a tsunami of unwanted basic cellphones, and only 11 percent of the estimated 152 million phones discarded in 2010 were recycled, the EPA says.
Most wireless phone carriers will take old phones for reuse or recycling, but you can also donate them to charities, such as a domestic-violence center like Emerge! in Tucson, which give them to victims for emergency use (phones not connecting to a service will still work for 911 calls).
Here's a partial list of places that take electronics for reuse or recycling. For a complete directory with more listings, go to Tucson Clean & Beautiful's website at www.tucsoncleanandbeautiful.org
TVs, computers and other electronics
• Rise Equipment Recycling Center, 623-7162, 1134 S. Park Ave. Accepts working and nonworking computers, TVs and other electronics (cellphones are collected for reuse). There is a $10 fee for each TV set and a $2 fee for each CRT (cathode-ray tube) computer monitor donated without a computer.
Rise picks up TVs and other items on the first Saturday of each month at the City of Tucson/Pima County Household Hazardous Waste Program's east-side outreach site at 7575 E. Speedway.
• World Care, 514-1588, 3538 E. Ellington Place (near East Aviation Highway and South Alvernon Way). Along with other electronics, World Care accepts working and nonworking TV sets, but there is a 25-cent-per-pound fee for nonworking TVs. Note: WorldCare is closed until Jan. 2 for inventory.
• American Retroworks, a for-profit recycler, accepts "anything with a plug," with a pickup-only service. The items are disassembled in foreign countries, including an operation in Frontera, Sonora, and handled according to fair-trade recycling rules, representative Nate Hutnak said. The company charges a flat $25 pickup fee per trip, plus $10 for each TV and $5 for each computer monitor. Call 477-8919 to arrange pickups.
• Some retailers have recycling programs. Best Buy, which has five Tucson-area stores, accepts a wide variety of items for recycling, including desktop or laptop computers, TVs and rechargeable batteries, at its stores.
But there are restrictions. The store won't take any glass-tube TVs with screens bigger than 32 inches, nor will it take big rear- or front-projection TVs.
The store offers pickup and hauling of larger TVs and major appliances, for a fee, to customers who buy replacement items at Best Buy.
For a list of items Best Buy accepts, see tinyurl.com/6ndmtzn
• The city of Tucson/Pima County Household Hazardous Waste Program accepts computers and peripheral items (no TVs or other electronics) Friday and Saturday mornings at its main site at 2440 W. Sweetwater Drive and other locations. There is no charge for city residents and residents of unincorporated Pima County. Residents of Marana, Oro Valley and Sahuarita are charged a $5 fee.
For other locations, hours and details, see tinyurl.com/c4mf428 or call 888-6947.
• Several local businesses buy later-model used computers for refurbishment and resale, or accept older systems for recycling, including Computer Renaissance, 7254 N. Oracle Road, 888-8100; and A+ Computers, 747-4668.
• Emerge! Center Against Domestic Abuse, 2545 E. Adams St., 795-8001. Accepts donations of cellphones and other items by appointment. Phones are given to domestic-violence victims for emergency use. Call or visit online for more info.
• The American Red Cross, Southern Arizona Chapter, 2916 E. Broadway, 318-6740 or toll-free, 1-877-AZ-LIFE-5 (1-877-295-4335). Cellphones are refurbished for emergency use or recycled. Visit the website or call for drop-off locations.
• Major cellular carriers, including Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile, accept old cellphones, batteries and chargers for refurbishment or recycling.
Several charity thrift shops accept working TVs and consumer electronics, including:
• Beacon Group accepts working TVs (except consoles) and electronics only at its Value Village location, 2700 N. Stone Ave., 792-1454.
• Goodwill Industries of Southern Arizona accepts working TVs (regardless of size or type) and electronics at several Tucson-area locations.
• The Salvation Army accepts working televisions, computers and other electronic items.
Contact Assistant Business Editor David Wichner at email@example.com or 573-4181.