Tips for Recycling Consumer Electronics


Before buying the latest cell phone, e-reader or laptop, stop and think about what you’re going to do with your old one. Millions of electronic devices end up in landfills, despite the fact that many devices were still usable or recyclable. To reduce the environmental impact of your technology choices, locate and take advantage of recycling or repurposing your items.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, in 2009, Americans got rid of 2.37 million short tons of computers, peripherals, cell phones and accessories. Only about 25 percent of these items were sent for recycling. While there has been an increase in recycling in recent years, we could all do more to reduce electronics waste.

Need some ideas for reducing your e-waste and responsibly disposing of the items you already own? Check out the tips below:

Shop Wisely

Environmental responsibility starts even before you buy electronics. If feasible, look into buying used or refurbished items, which are often much less expensive than brand new alternatives and often come with decent warranties. Inquire about recycling programs. Many retailers accept electronics for recycling, even devices and machines purchased from other stores. Check out a business’s website or call ahead to find out if they operate or partner with a certified eCycling program.

Manufacturers also sometimes offer recycling options: Amazon, for example, offers Kindle users a free mail-in recycling program in partnership with Eco Take Back. Kindle owners visit Eco Take Back’s site and print out a UPS shipping label (paid for by Amazon). The consumer attaches the label to a mailing envelope or box and ships the Kindle to Eco Take Back, which then recycles, resells or donates the device.

Rethink Recycling

Before you consign your cell phone or tablet to the recycle bin, make sure that it is actually no longer usable. Electronics that are slow or aren’t working properly may not be broken or even truly outdated. Performing basic maintenance, repairs, or upgrades can get these items performing again, providing you with a few more years of use, saving you money while also reducing waste.

Donate Old Electronics

If you really do need to upgrade to a newer, faster device or machine, look around for charities that accept and repurpose electronics. For example, many schools or vocational rehab programs accept old computers for student use. Domestic violence programs give cell phones to clients. If you can’t find organizations that accept direct donations of used electronics in your area, don’t fret: Many eCycling firms also donate usable items to charities.

A Word of Caution

When recycling or donating electronics, it’s important to wipe your personal data from the device. While many electronics collection programs will do this for you, not all will, and it’s important that you protect your privacy and identity by making sure that your devices no longer contain any of your personal information. Ask reuse/recycling programs how they process donated items.

How do you reduce e-waste? Have you ever recycled your electronics? Tell us about it in the comments section!