How to Recycle or Donate Your Outdated Tech Devices

E-waste is one of the biggest environmental offenders. Don't be a part of the problem.

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In today’s lightning-fast tech-times, your brand-new device is practically obsolete before you finish removing the packaging. That speed of turnover makes for mountains “outdated” components collecting dust in your drawers and closets. And as you likely already know, you can’t just throw them away.

According to the EPA, improperly discarded electronic waste is one of the biggest environmental offenders, making up more than 2 million tons of our total waste. In 2014 alone, people got rid of some 41.8 million tons of e-waste, according to a United Nations report, and only 10 to 40 percent of it was discarded properly.

That’s a big problem, not just for landfills. “The metals and elements found in old TVs and computers, such as lead, mercury, and chromium, are toxic and harmful to the environment,”says Gene Richardson, COO of Experts Exchange, an online community for IT professionals. “The chemical flame retardants that many of these devices are treated with can also have toxic affects, potentially leaching into the soil and groundwater,” he adds.

Electronic items considered hazardous include televisions and computer monitors that contain cathode ray tubes, LCD desktop monitors, LCD televisions, plasma televisions, portable DVD players with LCD screens, and more.

What’s more, a lot of e-waste is actually recyclable, and not recycling it only leads to more production of products that ultimately harm the environment. Did you know that it takes 530 pounds of fossil fuel, for example, along with 48 pounds of chemicals, and 1.5 tons of water to manufacture one computer and monitor?

On the flip side, recycling saves resources all around: For every 1 million cell phones that are recycled, 35,274 pounds of copper, 772 pounds of silver, 75 pounds of gold, and 33 pounds of palladium can be recovered, and recycling 1 million laptops saves the energy equivalent to the electricity used by 3,657 U.S. homes in a year.

Electronic components from batteries, phones, televisions, and even a child’s old talking pet toy and e-learner can be recycled. And according to Richardson, there are many environmental agencies that offer e-waste recycling services. “Be sure to ask the agency nearest to you where the devices are being deposited and which drop-off locations are trusted, as there have been reports of companies shipping unwanted waste to places like Pakistan and China, causing further issues for those countries.”

As for how to recycle each type of device, there are many options:

Donate your old tech devices

If it’s still functioning, many charities will accept older devices for people in need. If local senior centers or recreation centers aren’t interested, try reaching out to these organizations:

  • Dell Reconnect, a partner of Goodwill, takes your old computers and computer accessories. Drop them off at participating Goodwill locations (check the site for ones near you).
  • American Cell Phone Drive accepts cell phones to resell or recycle—and the profits go to support several good causes.
  • The World Computer Exchange will refurbish computers and other tech devices to forward to people in developing countries.

Recycle your old tech devices

Many retailers have convenient drop-off bins for your old phones and other electronics. For additional recycling locations, you can search for local programs on website of the Environmental Protection Agency.

  • Staples and Best Buy both offer a free, responsible e-recycling program for a wide range of electronics, according to Richardson, and may even offer a trade-in value for newer products. Most Walmarts and Whole Foods stores typically have a drop-off kiosk for old cell phones.
  • For old phones, Sprint’s Buyback program offers a credit for mobile phones—check the manufacturer websites.
  • Amazon will actually issue an Amazon gift card for your old electronics, not to mention CDs and video games.
  • For rechargeable batteries and mobile phones, there are drop-off bins nationwide run by the nonprofit organization Call2Recycle (enter your ZIP code to find drop-off locations nearest you).
  • Contact your township municipal offices for electronics recycling days. You’ll find events by state at TIA E-cycling Central.

Still have questions? Here’s how to recycle just about anything.

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