Where should I dispose of my old electronics?
This question was answered on January 4, 2017. Much of the information contained herein may have changed since posting.
It’s that time of year when many households are asking this same question as the new gadgets replace the old ones during the holidays.
Electronic devices are one of the most common gifts every year, which results in lots of devices that end up in closets, drawers and garage shelves.
The Growing E-waste Problem
Unfortunately, electronic waste (e-waste) continues to be one of the fastest growing municipal waste issues according to the EPA, which means most of it ends up in our landfills.
Even though e-waste represents 2% of our trash, it accounts for around 70% of the overall toxic waste in our landfills. With our desire for new devices growing every year, the problem of improperly disposing of our old tech is also growing.
Keeping the toxic waste in electronics that include lead, arsenic, cadmium, mercury and many other dangerous chemicals out of our landfills should be important to everyone, but at best we’re only recycling between 15% to 25% of our e-waste because too many people still aren’t aware of the dangers.
Repurposing vs. Recycling
Recycling your old electronics isn’t your only option as a better use for them would be to re-purpose them. Just because a device isn’t useful to you anymore, doesn’t mean that it won’t be useful to others.
Check with your local schools, churches and local charities, especially if you have older devices like smartphones, computers, printers and tablets that may be a little slow, but still usable.
Another option is to make it available to others in your area via the Freecycle website (http://freecycle.org), which is essentially an online version of putting it out on the sidewalk with a sign that says ‘FREE for the taking’.
If your old tech isn’t a candidate for repurposing, then finding a responsible recycler to ensure it gets properly processed is critical.
Many municipalities now have a structured e-waste recycling process, drop off locations or annual events, so start by checking your city or county’s website.
The National Cristina Foundation (http://cristina.org) is a great resource for individuals and businesses that have technology that they think can still be of use.
The foundation focuses on service providing organizations targeting people with disabilities, students at risk and economically disadvantaged populations through their non-profit locator tool.
If you have a cellphone or smartphones that still works, you may be able to trade it in or recycle it with your current wireless carrier.
There are a number of companies that will offer to buy your old mobile gadgets like uSell (http://usell.com), Glyde (https://glyde.com) and NextWorth (https://nextworth.com) or you can trade them in for gift cards at Amazon (https://goo.gl/i5Hp3J).
The EPA has also put together a list of national companies that offer recycling programs for PCs, televisions and mobile devices: http://goo.gl/sDTUV7
The listed companies offer drop-off locations, recycling events or mail-in options.
Another list of recycling options for things like batteries, printer ink cartridges and computers is http://www.computerhope.com/disposal.htm.
Wipe Your Data First
Before you donate or recycle your computers, make sure you take steps to securely wipe your personal data from the hard drives: http://goo.gl/MGyE8f.
Your cellphones and smartphones are also loaded with lots of personal information, so make sure you perform a factory reset http://goo.gl/0M07Q9 before getting rid of it.
About the author
Posted by Ken Colburn of Data Doctors on January 4, 2017