You got everything that was on your tech wish list this year, but now you suddenly realize that all your old tech is still cluttering your home. You know you’ll never use your old gear again, but you may not be sure how to dispose of it safely and sustainably.
You have better options than just holding on to them or throwing them away. In this guide, we’ll go over what you need to know about preparing your old tech for recycling and take a closer look at some of your recycling options.
Things to do before recycling or donating your old technology
If you choose to recycle or donate your old technology, you will need to do a few things to prepare your things before leaving them for recycling. Generally speaking, the main things to consider before recycling your technology are: Back up your data, delete your data, and remove batteries or peripherals.
If you are recycling your old technology, it is important to protect yourself from identity theft by backing up the data stored on your old devices and then wiping that data completely from the devices you are recycling. You can learn more about how to clean hard drives in our how-to guide. Similarly, you will want to backup and then erase the data on your old smartphones as well. For smartphones, this usually involves a factory reset. We have guides for that too – one for cleaning Android phones and tablets, and one for iPhones.
Also don’t forget to remove the following: your SIM card (you may need it for your next device), the battery (if possible remove it), and any peripherals.
How to recycle old technology at a retailer
Now that your old technology is ready to be recycled, let’s take a look at some of your recycling options. In fact, you have more options than you think. You don’t have to throw your old gadgets away. Your e-waste could be someone else’s treasure.
You don’t need to take your old technology to a real recycling center. Many retailers and manufacturers have their own recycling programs. Several of these programs will accept old electronics of any brand or regardless of where you originally purchased them.
To make finding some of these recycling programs easier, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has posted a list of them online. The listed retailers and manufacturers are participants in an EPA program known as the Sustainable Materials Management Electronics Challenge. For now, let’s take a closer look at the recycling programs of two SMM Electronics Challenge participants, so you can get an idea of what to expect from them.
Generally, you can recycle up to three items per day per household for free. But there are exceptions. Large appliances and things like computer monitors can be recycled, but are subject to transportation fees. You can visit the Best Buy website for detailed guidelines on what they will and will not accept for recycling. Best Buy also offers trade-in promotions, where you can exchange your old technology for Best Buy gift cards or discounts on new equipment. You can recycle with Best Buy by taking your things to a Best Buy store (at the Customer Service counter) or using their transportation options for things like large appliances or televisions. For transportation services, it generally costs $ 30 per item if you also receive a new appliance from Best Buy. If you’re not buying a new appliance from Best Buy and just want to have it delivered, it’s $ 100.
And while Best Buy will erase your data from your recycled devices, it does ask that you clean up your old technology before taking it for recycling.
Staples also has a free recycling program for old technology. And they also have detailed guidelines on what you will and will not accept. You can recycle up to seven items per customer per day. All Staples stores will accept their old technology for recycling, with the exception of “smaller format stores in New York City and Washington DC.”
It will accept batteries, but only certain types. And for the most part, they don’t accept appliances except for “coffeemakers weighing less than 40 pounds.”
Staples Rewards members can recycle ink and toner cartridges and earn up to $ 2 per recycled ink cartridge in rewards, for up to 20 ink and toner cartridges, per month.
How to recycle old technology at donation centers
You can also simply donate your old technology to nonprofits who, in turn, can recycle it for you or restore it so that people in need can use it. Some examples of these donation programs include: ReConnect (a partnership between Dell and Goodwill), Computers with Causes, and Secure the Call.
ReConnect lets you recycle computers and computer accessories for free at more than 2,000 Goodwill locations. Donated items can be resold, restored, or recycled. Revenue generated from recycled items is used to support Goodwill job placement services and job training programs. Dell explains the online donation process and you can find a participating ReConnect location here.
Computers with Causes is a program that takes old computers and gives them to people in need. The recipients are often students, teachers, parents, community centers, the elderly, or shelters and foster homes. You can donate laptops, tablets, desktops, servers, and devices. In most cases, the things you donate will be given to the less fortunate. In some cases, they will be resold and the proceeds from that will help cover the shipping costs of sending donated technology to people in need. Or they will break down into components that can be recycled or reused.
Secure the Call is an organization that accepts donations of old phones and tablets. The phones are then given to people in need, often victims of domestic violence or seniors, who need a way to reach 911 emergency services. It works because these donated phones do not require a paid cell phone plan to make calls. emergency, they only need the batteries to be charged. Donated but unusable phones are recycled instead.
Call2Recycle is a battery and cell phone recycling program. You can use their delivery network to recycle your old batteries for free. The network has thousands of public collection sites. Many of these locations include retailers such as The Home Depot, Lowe’s, and Staples. Accepts rechargeable and single-use batteries (weighing less than 11 pounds) and cell phones. They do not accept car batteries or wet cell batteries. Donated cell phones are generally reconditioned and resold or recycled.
Use a local recycling center
You may have a local recycling center that accepts old technology. You can use online directories to find ones that are local to you. Here are a couple of examples:
Earth911: Earth911 has a searchable directory that will show you recycling centers, retailers, and donation centers for all types of recycled materials, including electronics and batteries. You can search by material / product type and then narrow it down by zip code.
Sustainable Electronics Recycling International: This organization has a searchable directory of recycling centers that are certified for the recycling of electronic products. It has listings for 991 installations in 33 countries.
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