Everyone loves the feeling of pulling a new laptop or high-end TV out of the box. But when you find yourself with a pile of electronic junk you want outside your home, it can be difficult to figure out how to properly dispose of it. Throwing it in the trash is not only bad for the environment, it could also be against the law depending on what you need to dispose of. However, there are a dizzying number of options for safely and responsibly getting rid of old technology. If your technology is still in good working order, you may even be able to get paid to do without it.
Prepare your old technology for recycling or donation
Before we can talk about where to dispose of old technology, we need to look at how to prepare your technology for proper disposal. The technology can contain sensitive information, such as your social security number or bank login information. To keep your data safe, remove or erase the storage drives on your device before disposing of them. (For specific instructions on how to do this with a laptop, take a look.)
If you have a defective battery that you need to dispose of, we recommend that you take some precautions for your own safety and for the safety of the environment. The United States Environmental Protection Agency recommends securing the conductive ends of batteries with non-conductive tape (electrical tape, for example) and placing disposable batteries in a plastic container or container. This reduces the risk of fire.
For lithium ion batteries, DO NOT puncture or otherwise damage them as it is a serious fire hazard. If you already have a damaged lithium-ion battery, take it to the nearest e-waste disposal site or technical repair shop as soon as possible.
Donate your old technology to charity
If you want to get rid of the technology that is still in good condition, you should try to donate it. Many organizations around the world bring used technology to those who need it, and your donation may be tax deductible. The National Christina Foundation, the World Computer Exchange, and Computer with Causes are three programs that provide used technology to disadvantaged and disadvantaged populations in the United States.
If you want to get more involved in your community, contact your school district, library, city council, or other local public service to see if they have programs to redistribute used technology to those who need it. For example, Massachusetts directly offers funding to towns and cities to implement reuse and repair programs. If you don’t have these options available or need a quick and easy way to get on and off, you can also donate your old tech to thrift stores like Goodwill.
Take advantage of take-back and repurchase programs
In order to reduce e-waste and make your life easier, many tech companies will take or buy your used technology. If you’ve recently bought a cell phone, for example, you may have been offered cash for your old phone by your new phone manufacturer.
Apple, Samsung, Staples, and Best Buy all have tech buy-back programs, as do many other manufacturers and resellers.
The Electronics Takeback Coalition (ETC) has a list of takeback programs that provides more details on the specifics of the program and their impact on sustainability. To know which programs maximize their sustainability, keep an eye out for certified e-Steward programs, which are committed to not exporting e-waste to developing countries (a common practice that shifts the burden of waste treatment and its by-products on already vulnerable populations). For example, Staples runs an e-Steward Certified Pickup Program if you have one nearby.
Staples and Best Buy have take-back programs for a wide range of technology, from tablets to vacuum cleaners, for free or for a modest discount. Often, you can just go straight to a store and ask about their take-back schedules for most of the smaller technologies like laptops and cell phones – no need to schedule a take-back. Many manufacturers also offer direct take-back and buy-back programs through mail services or partnerships with resellers.
The Environmental Protection Agency has a list of different manufacturers and companies that will take your technology and you can sort by item category. This list is especially useful if you want to know which vendors offer shipping and pickup options for more unusual equipment, such as office copiers.
What to do with e-waste and broken technology
Unfortunately, not all technology is repairable, and no matter how eco-conscious you are about your technology, you will end up with electronic waste that you need to dispose of properly. Common electronic waste includes spent disposable batteries, broken monitors, and damaged computer hardware.
If you have to dispose of a battery, standalone or inside a product, you can’t just throw it in the trash or trash (it’s against the law in many states). Many batteries can harm the local environment or become a fire hazard once they reach the end of their life cycle, so proper disposal requires specialized waste disposal services. The main exception is disposable alkaline batteries, which can legally be disposed of with regular trash anywhere in the United States except California. However, we strongly recommend that you take your used alkaline batteries to a recycle bin or recycling center instead.
For many people, the simplest option will be to take their e-waste to a retail store that offers a free disposal bin for batteries and small technologies. Best Buy, Staples, and Home Depot all have free disposal bins in stores. Many cities also offer municipal e-waste services, such as community recycling bins or even e-waste collection services for large items like televisions and appliances. For cell phones in particular, many battery recyclers like Call2Recycle will also take the phones for free.
For a specific tech product like a TV, you can check the Earth911 directory for your nearest recycler for that specific product. In the meantime, Greener Gadgets offers you a complete list of the closest recyclers for all products.
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Pricing was accurate at the time of this article’s publication, but may change over time.