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Electronics Recycling: What to Do With Your Old Laptops, Phones, Cameras, and Batteries



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What do you do with your phone when it has reached its target? We give you some options.

Josh Miller / CNET

Gadgets can pile up over the years – new ones come out, old ones break. You probably have a drawer full of old batteries and cables, and then some old telephones, laptops and desktops lying around, which only get bigger if you change your electronics while on vacation. You may be keeping them for nostalgic reasons (I admit I stuck with my first Nokia blocking phone to “show my kids someday”), or because you thought you might be able to use them again later.

Be brave. Stay focused. Look in your drawers, the garage, or any dark corner of your closet, and you’re bound to find a stack of electronics you really don’t need.

Whatever the tech, when it’s finally time to say goodbye, there’s a right way to throw out your old gadgets – and a lot of wrong ways. I’ll help you.

Read more: The Best Places to Sell Your Used Electronics in 2021

What should I do before I lose my device?

When you are done with a gadget, make sure you have finished it too. Even though it may be old, someone just needs a charger to reboot your old phone or computer to get to your personal information.

The moral of this story: Make sure to back up everything you want from the device – photos, videos, songs – then do a factory reset. Don’t worry, we’ll give you tips on how to wipe your device in the phones, laptops and cameras sections below.

All those dead batteries

There are a number of ways to properly dispose of the single-use and rechargeable batteries, such as AA, AAA, and D cell batteries that are common in flashlights, toys, and other household electronics.

Best Buy, Whole Foods, Home Depot, Lowes, and Staples all have free drop-off spots to take away dead batteries. I suggest putting your used batteries in a container and taking them when they are full.

You can also visit Earth911, a website that helps you find the nearest recycling location based on the type of battery you need to dispose of (e.g., alkaline, button cell, lithium, zinc air). Call2Recycle can also help you find places to recycle your batteries.

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E-waste can be given a second life after professional recyclers have extracted copper and other valuable materials.

Sims Recycling Solutions

How to Recycle Phones

According to Call2Recycle, telephones and their batteries are among the easiest electronics to recycle.

Don’t forget to transfer all data and photos from your old phone to a new phone, or save your photos in another way before doing a factory reset. Don’t forget about it SIM card, if it is still there.

The company accepts all phones and batteries regardless of size, make, model, or age. Call2Recycle can refurbish the device for resale or recycle the materials for a new device. If you look hard enough, you can even being paid for recycling your phone.

If your phone is new enough, you may be able to trade it in with a carrier when you buy a new phone or sell it on the open market. Otherwise, if it has lost a lot of value, recycling may be the way to get a dusty phone off your hands.

Read: How to Sell or Recycle Your Phone for Cash

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Cables are fair game too.

Taylor Martin / CNET

Best Buy accepts three phones per household per day, Lowes has recycling centers in every location, Home Depot accepts phones up to 11 pounds, and Staples also takes phones.

Whole Foods has partnered with Secure the Call to provide emergency numbers to seniors and domestic violence shelters. Make sure to bring the charger with you.

You can also donate your gently used phones to Cell Phones for Soldiers. The program helps troops to call their families home for free. Local communities can also receive donations as part of a city-wide ride.

I also propose to inquire with your employer about how they deal with e-waste. You may be able to add some items to the collection.

Easily recycle laptops

Before you throw away your old computer, you should ask yourself whether it is still usable. If it’s less than five years old, chances are someone else could put it to good use, TechSoup said. Newer laptops can go to local nonprofits or libraries after renovations. You can find a program in Microsoft’s Registered Refurbisher directory.

If the device is too old or out of shape to donate, you can recycle it. Again, Earth911 makes it easy: just search for “laptop computer” and enter your zip code to find the nearest delivery location. Dell’s Goodwill Reconnect program also accepts old and defective hardware.

Make sure that the program you use to dispose of your old hardware is in good standing with the Certified Electronics Recyclers site of the Environmental Protection Agency, and feel free to contact the refurbisher or recycler to double-check.

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Newer laptops make great donations. Don’t forget to erase the drives first.

Sarah Tew / CNET

When you bring the laptop in, remember all the goodies that came with it: keyboard, mouse, printer, modem, and any software. Most of the time, refurbishers can repackage all of this. Don’t forget to erase your data first!

Additionally, donating your laptop can give you a tax break. Keep a record of what you donated, just in case. You can read more in the Sage BlueBook or Section 170 of the Federal Income Tax Code if you’re feeling particularly ambitious.

Chargers and cables can also be recycled

If you look like my man and you keep boxes on boxes of wires chargers and cables in the basement (in case you ever need one), it might be time to let them go. You can search for Capital Scrap Metal or InvestmentMine to see if any threads lying around are worth anything. For example, copper will cost $ 2.35 per pound from April 2020, according to InvestmentMine.

You can also drop off your cables at Best Buy, Staples and other locations. Chargers can also be reused. If a cord no longer works with one device, you can sometimes make it work with another device. Economical!


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Otherwise, you can donate your old cables, cords, chargers, and cords to local science, technology, engineering, and math school programs, Google STEM, National Center for Electronics Recycling, or Earth911.

Yes, you should recycle your old camera

If you’re still holding onto camera relics from the early 2000s, we’ve got a few places you can take them off your hands.

Best Buy and Home Depot accept cameras and camcorders. Lowes also brings cameras. And of course Earth911 and Call2Recycle are options for the width of your used electronics.

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Large TVs may seem tricky to donate, but you can find a service like Best Buy to pick it up for $ 20. Consider it a donation to the environment.

Sarah Tew / CNET

TV recycling is possible

Televisions are bigger electronics, so it may take a little more elbow grease to get the job done, but don’t be intimidated. As with donating and recycling phones and laptops, there are a few things you should know about getting rid of your old TV. If the set still works, consider donating it to a second-hand store.

If you can do a factory reset, do so for smart TVs that are likely to contain personal data. Unplug the power cord, bundle the cords neatly, and tape them to the unit. Use a dolly and be careful while moving the TV – the potentially toxic materials inside the TV could end up in your home if dropped.

A Google search will show you a number of local recycling and donation centers that accept larger electronics. Best Buy, for example, buys two TVs per home per day for $ 20 when you get a new set – tube TVs smaller than 32 inches, portable TVs and flat screens, LCDs, LEDs, and plasmas smaller than 50 inches. Standalone pick-ups are $ 100. You can also drop off your TV in the store: three TVs (with accessories) per household per day.

A large stack of smartphones.

Never throw old telephones in the trash.

Josh Miller / CNET

Why can’t I just throw away my old devices and batteries?

When your electronics end up in a landfill, they don’t just leave behind wires and plastic (which is a huge problem in itself). If e-waste is dumped or disposed of improperly, it can harm the environment.

Most electronics contain toxic materials such as lead, flame retardants and chrome. These materials can damage the kidneys, blood and nervous system of humans, Ilene Lubell, president of the Mayer Metals Corporation, which recycles old electronics for businesses, wrote in a blog post.

When electronics are dumped or disposed of improperly, those toxins can leak into landfills and groundwater and evaporate into the atmosphere when heated, Lubell said.


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There are a number of eco-friendly ways to dispose of your old electronics that could potentially help those in need or in disadvantaged communities. It is important to note that the removal protocol can vary from device to device.

Behind the scenes, devices are being recycled, refurbished or redistributed. Sometimes they are mined for parts or melted down to extract the rare earth materials within. Apple’s Material Recovery Lab in Texas uses robots to dismantle iPhones ($ 899 at Amazon) at a speed of 200 devices per hour.

Get out there and recycle!


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