Electronic Waste: U.S. Is World's Biggest Producer By Far, Study Says

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A recent United Nations study shows the U.S. is the world's biggest producer of electronic waste, more than one million tons ahead of China.

Staying on top of the newest, latest technology has become the American way, but that new smartphone purchase usually means there's another one getting replaced.

"95 percent of all these electronics that we use in the entire world go un-recycled,” said John Shegerian, CEO of Electronic Recyclers International. “Now that's a shame."

Electronic waste contains toxic chemicals that could leak into our eco system. "There is cadmium, lead and arsenic in all electronics and other hazardous materials should not be going into our landfills," according to Shegerian.

Simply throwing those old devices in the trash can be not only irresponsible, but in some cases, it’s criminal. "It's illegal to throw away your old electronics in the trash in 25 states," said Shegerian.

An alternative is using a certified recycler -- one that has "E-Stewards" or "R2 "certification. Staples, Best Buy and the Salvation Army are among outlets that working with certified recyclers that will take your electronics and recycle them for free.

If old devices still work, it's possible to sell them for cash or donate them to charity.

Old devices can also be reused in a new way. For example, a host of free apps let you use your home Wi-Fi connection to turn old tablets or phone camera into a basic home security system. Load music onto old devices to use as a MP3 player or set them as alarm clocks. Apps like DayFrame can also turn an old tablet into a digital picture frame.