Suppose you’re one of the millions of Americans who purchased or were gifted electronics over the holidays. In that case, you may be wondering how to best dispose of or recycle your old devices. We all have a drawer crammed with old phones, chargers, cables to a VCR you haven’t used in years, and accessories for devices you stopped using years ago.
There’s a right way and a wrong way – well, many wrong ways – to dispose of electronics. Before we get into that, let me remind you to ensure you’ve wiped the device of any personal information before you toss it. All it takes is a charger for a bad actor to access any data you’ve left on your device before disposing of it. The best way is to back everything up then do a factory reset.
The EPA has a list of Certified Electronics Recyclers to ensure the site you’ve chosen is reputable and not going to dump your device in a landfill.
Did you know batteries fall into the same category as used electronics? Don’t throw them in the trash once they’re spent. Instead, collect them in an old shoebox or another container, then take them to Best Buy, Whole Foods, Home Depot, Lowes, or Staples, each of whom has free drop-off spots for dead batteries. Earth 911 is an eco-friendly resource for recycling, and they will help you locate the nearest recycling location based on the type of battery you need to dispose of (e.g., alkaline, lithium, zinc-air).
Old cell phones – depending on how old – can often be traded in against a new device’s price. If it’s too outdated, wipe it, then choose from one of these options:
- Best Buy accepts three phones per household per day,
- Lowes has recyclables collection centers at stores across the U.S.
- Staples accepts mobile phones along with many other electronics.
- Home Depot accepts phones up to 11 pounds.
- Whole Foods, Navy Federal Credit Union, and ShopRite partner with Secure the Call to get 911 emergency-only phones to senior citizens and individuals in domestic violence shelters. Check local listings for participating stores or send your phone directly to Secure the Call.
- Cell Phones for Soldiers accepts used phones enabling troops to call their families at home for free.
When it comes to laptops, there several options. Earth911 allows you to search for “laptop computer,” enter your ZIP code, and it will pull up a list of the nearest drop off-sites. If the device is older or broken, Dell’s Goodwill Reconnect Program is a good option. If it’s less than five years old, there’s a good chance someone can use it. Many local nonprofits and libraries accept used laptops after refurbishing; just remember to bring the software and accessories that came with them (charger, mouse, printer).
Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits, and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.