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How to Recycle Electronics – 8 Easy Tips

man putting old electronics in a recycling container

More than 50 million tons of old electronic devices are discarded every year. With the modern home packed with devices like cell phones, tablets, TVs, laptops, and computers, and the availability of smart speakers, doorbells, and other electronic devices, this figure will continue to increase.

Unfortunately, these devices can contain materials like cadmium, lead, and mercury, which are potentially dangerous and need to be disposed of properly. So, they shouldn’t be placed in general waste bins.

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How to Recycle, Reuse, or Repurpose Old Electronics

Some states have passed laws that demand residents properly recycle old technology or e-waste, and there are options available to help you safely discard your old technology. Below are eight ways you can recycle, reuse, or properly dispose of your devices.

1. Sell It

If your device still works, you can ethically dispose of it while recouping some of the money you spent on it, by selling it. Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, and eBay are just some of the places where you can list items for sale.

Even if your device is broken, somebody might want it for spare parts or for some project they’re working on. Make sure you wipe the hard drive and memory of any device and be honest regarding the condition of the device when you list it.

If you don’t want the hassle of dealing with buyers or creating and monitoring listings on these sites, you can use buyback sites that will give you money for old devices.

macbook, ipad, and smartphones on the table
Image Credit: Pixabay, Pexels

2. Trade It In

When you buy a new TV or upgrade your cell phone to a new model, there may be the option to trade in your old device. This may give you money off your new device.

If you want to ensure that you get the most amount of money back, compare the trade-in offer you get with buy-back services and look at closed listings on sites like eBay.

3. Pass It On

If you know somebody that wants a cell phone or needs a TV, consider donating your old device to them. You could help out a friend or family member, get rid of your unwanted device, and prolong the life of electronics that would otherwise need to be recycled. Do make sure you get rid of any personal data before gifting your old electronics.

female hand passing mobile phone
Image Credit: Dmitriev Mikhail, Shutterstock

4. Repurpose It

Devices like cell phones and tablets can be repurposed. Even if your old phone is running too slowly to be used on a regular basis, you could turn it into a touchscreen controller for your TV or a digital alarm clock. An old tablet could be repurposed as a dedicated e-reader or a controller for your automated home system.

5. Use a Recycling Company

There are specialist recycling companies that deal with electronic and electric devices. They will usually strip the device and use or sell any viable components and, as long as you use a reputable group, they will properly dispose of the more harmful chemicals and materials in the device. Make sure you use a certified recycler to ensure that your devices are properly recycled, but you can find local companies and those that can accept e-waste that is mailed to them.

an electronic waste in recycling container
Image Credit: Estrada Anton, Shutterstock

6. Check Electronics Retailers

The likes of Amazon, Apple, and Best Buy offer recycling programs for electronic devices, and you might be able to get discounts on future items, or even store credit, by using these schemes.

Speak to the company you bought the device from first or the company that manufactured the product. Most cell phone companies and printer cartridge companies will recycle the devices that they manufactured.

7. Donate Old Devices

Old devices can also be donated. While this is true of devices that still work, it can also be true if your device is no longer active. Educational institutions, care homes, and local housing charities may accept these donations and there are groups like The World Computer Exchange that will take devices and distribute them to developing countries.

female hands putting old electronics in a box
Image Credit: Veja, Shutterstock

8. Recycle Your Old Batteries

Batteries, especially old rechargeable ones, should always be recycled, and if you’re getting rid of an old cell phone or laptop, you can remove the battery to make sure it is being recycled properly. Many of us have a drawer of old batteries that we don’t know what to do with.

Check local stores and retailers, as well as electronics retailers, because many of these stores do offer battery recycling. Alternatively, look for specialist recyclers, including online recycling companies, that will accept your batteries.

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Steps to Take Before Recycling Old Electronics

Devices like cell phones, laptops, and computers can contain sensitive, personal information, and whether you’re recycling or donating these devices, you should secure the data on them before donating.

1. Backup Important Data

If you have any photos, videos, work documents, or other important data on your device, ensure it is fully backed up before you start destroying hard drives and recycling devices. Back it up to a flash drive and secure your online account or your new device before you start.

2. Factory Reset

Erase all your files, format the drive, and then reset the device to factory defaults. This will get rid of those annoying files that you can’t seem to delete so your device is ready for resale or recycling, but it is important that you’ve backed up everything you need because you won’t be able to get it back beyond this point.

cloud uploading concept on phone screen
Image Credit: selinofoto, Shutterstock

3. Destroy Your Hard Drive

If you’re recycling an old device, or if you’re selling it, you should know that formatting and resetting a hard drive may not be enough to get rid of all traces of sensitive data. Physically destroying the hard drive is one way to go, and this can be achieved with the simplest of all tools: the hammer. Alternatively, if you can use a hard drive shredder, use one.

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Most modern homes have a selection of tech including cell phones, tablets, computers, and TVs. When these reach the end of their useful life, or when we upgrade to new devices, we are left with old electronics that we need to get rid of. Throwing them in the waste isn’t an option, and is actually illegal in some areas, but there are alternatives.

If you can’t repurpose or gift your old device, you might be able to sell it privately or trade it in for money off your next piece of technology. Always make sure you properly remove any personal data and files before getting rid of your old technology and that you recycle or repurpose it properly and ethically.

Featured Image Credit: Fevziie, Shutterstock


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