October 3, 2023

I am not a perfect person, but I try to do the right thing. I recycle my bottles and cans. I return my grocery store cart. I tip at least 20 percent, even if it’s just for a cup of coffee.

But I’ve been doing something wrong for years and had zero idea. Did you know you’re not supposed to throw away your phone chargers? Like your little iPhone charger that breaks every four months? The dinky knockoff you got from CVS? Yeah… No, you’re not supposed to pitch that in the garbage. You’re supposed to recycle them like a computer, TV, or any other electronics that seem much more complex than a cable sold for twenty bucks. I am sincerely asking: Who knew this?

When I learned this fact, I was left with a lot of questions. First and foremost: What the hell? Second: How the hell do you recycle a phone charger?

As it turns out, I wasn’t alone in my ignorance. According to refurbished tech seller Decluttr, of the 2,400 people surveyed on Reddit — obviously, this is a non-scientific poll — 75 percent don’t dispose of their chargers correctly. Truthfully, I do not believe 25 percent did know there was a correct way.

Fifty-five percent of respondents in the survey said they throw old chargers away in the trash, while 17 percent said “other,” with lots of comments that suggested they just chuck their charging cables and charging bricks in a drawer somewhere. Just 25 percent said they take their old chargers to a recycling center, which is how you’re supposed to do it. Only three percent said they contacted local authorities for disposal advice. (Please give me a second to call New York Mayor Eric Adams about my phone charger.)

I suppose if I sat back and thought about it I’d realize chargers should be recycled. After all, they have plastic and metals and, not to get too far into the scientific weeds, the stuff that makes the electricity go vroom-vroom into the phone. They essentially create electronic waste or e-waste — and CNN reports that there are roughly “66 million tons of electronic waste generated each year.” In an effort to limit the amount of e-waste it produces, Apple has a global recycling program where you can bring your old, busted Apple charging bricks and cables — online and in stores — and they will take care of it for you. This will probably be useful information when and if you upgrade to the new iPhone 15 models, which now come with a universal USB-C connector instead of a Lightning port.

Still, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve mindlessly pitched a dead charger into the garbage. If you, like me, didn’t know that cables and power blocks aren’t supposed to be chucked, then Lifehacker has you covered on how to recycle those parts if you’re looking for more environmentally friendly ways to dispose of them.

Let’s be real though: I am not going to make a trip to an e-waste center when the time comes to replace my charger. I know myself. Those suckers will join my dead AA batteries in a forgotten drawer. Not garbage. But not useful. Forever in a state of electronic limbo.

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