Dealing with Electronic Waste Disposal


Image by *Luana* via Flickr

Whether you’re a techno-geek or a Luddite, eventually you end up with electronic waste.  Those old computers, cell phones, and other gadgets that go unused and obsolete. What do you do with them? It may depend on where you live. The New Year has brought new laws banning electronic waste from landfills in several states; Illinois is the latest to force consumers to deal with their hazardous waste safely. Twenty-five states, including New Jersey, North Carolina and Pennsylvania, have electronic-waste recycling laws. 15 states have outright bans on disposing of electronics.

Your old electronics can leach potentially harmful chemicals like lead, mercury, and cadmium into the environment. Rather than toss them in the trash, what can you do with your old electronics?

Check with your local government: Some cities and counties hold regular “electronics recycling days” where they will collect your old TVs, computers and more. Some items are refurbished and resold. Others are disassembled, sorted into material (like metal, plastic and glass) and sold on the recyclables market. Hazardous parts (containing lead, for example) are sent for proper recovery in waste facilities.

Donate to a local charity: When you can, donate working products to local charities like the Salvation Army and Goodwill. Check each organization’s website, however, for participation. In my town, our main facility will not take tube televisions or computer monitors. Many Goodwill locations participate in the Dell Reconnect Partnership, where they accept any unwanted electronics in any condition, at no cost to you. They’ll ensure that your electronics are either refurbished or recycled, while creating jobs in the community.

Bring your recyclables to Office Depot or Best Buy: In many states, Office Depot will accept old electronics as part of their Tech Recycling Program. You’ll pay a small fee for a box to fill; they’ll mail it off to a recycling center for you. Best Buy will accept items for free, and if you need help removing your personal data from your computer’s hard drive you can pay their Geek Squad a nominal fee to do it for you.

Trade in your electronics at Target or Target has recently started a program with NextWorth where you can trade in your old items for a Target Gift Card. Target will not accept personal computers, but they will take phones, tablets, Apple products, cameras and other electronic products. You can get a quote for your product online, and you’ll receive a prepaid shipping label to print to mail your product in for trade.

Sell your old electronics yourself: Working condition or not, some old products are worthwhile to someone else. Just last fall, I sold an old digital camera (completely broken, from me dropping it on a hard tile floor) for $26 on eBay. The buyer wanted it for parts. I’ve even sold the extra battery and charger from a five year-old camera for $12 on eBay. Look up whatever you have sitting in the closet and see if the market is there. If you’re not comfortable selling on eBay, try selling locally on Craigslist or to one of your social groups (church members, a moms club, etc.).

Remove your personal information: Before you recycle or sell your electronics, remove the SIM card (from phones) or “wipe” the hard drive to remove personal data, banking information, and other privacy issues. For help with this, check with the recycling program that you plan to use. In some cases, computers are crushed so it is not necessary.

While you’re enjoying your new holiday gadgets and goodies, be sure and treat the old ones responsibly. Happy recycling!

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  1. sandmeister

    3 years ago

    For those in the DC Metro area, the Capital PC Users Group takes old computers and some peripherals and refurbishes them for those in need. You can get more information here:

  2. ecycler

    3 years ago

    You can also go to, type in your Zip Code and find a list of recycling locations near you (with click thru links on hours and directions) – these ecycling sites are all industry-sponsored or third-party certified, so you can rest assured that your ewaste is recycled responsibly.

  3. Twodayone

    1 year ago

    We all have to deal with electronic waste by recycling the devises. Keeping this waste out of landfills many toxic materials are within electronic devises.

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