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How To Get Rid Of Unwanted Electronics Ethically

Remember these three R’s: Resell, Recycle, Repurpose

(image credit: Android Authority)

With CES 2022 and the holidays right around the corner, many of us are looking forward to upgrading our tech for the new year. This means getting rid of old devices, but how can we dispose of them without harming the environment?

It might be natural to assume that old electronics should simply be thrown out with the trash. However, there are far better ways to dispose of them. In some states, it’s even illegal to toss electronics. Luckily, alternative methods are easy and may even get you a little extra money in return.

Before diving into how you should dispose of electronics ethically, you must know why doing so is important. Electronic waste, or e-waste, is more dangerous than typical garbage in many ways. This is because electronics often contain metals or chemicals that are extremely harmful to the environment. Additionally, many electronic components have much more value than you may realize, meaning they can be reused beyond the life span of the original device. Here’s how to make sure your electronics are disposed of properly

1. Recycle
The first and often easiest way to dispose of electronics is by taking them to a recycling facility or drop-off point. Electronics recycling is becoming more popular as awareness rises about discarded technology’s harmful effects. Stores that sell these items usually have one of these programs. For example, Best Buy allows you to bring in a few devices to recycle every day, often for little to no charge. Some items will even get you trade-in credit for a new product.

It’s a good idea to check a store’s website before bringing in batteries or old electronics to recycle. Places may have certain limits on what items they can accept and how many they can take at once. Local recycling programs are also an option, so consider contacting your mayor’s office or check its website to see if there is a public electronics recycling drop-off point near you.

2. Trade-In
Trade-in programs are one of the most rewarding ways to recycle old tech. If a new phone catches your eye on one of the CES panels, consider seeing if there’s a way to get a discount on it for trading in your old phone. Many companies have an in-house program that can make it easy to get a new phone without throwing out your old one. Apple offers potential discounts of hundreds of dollars depending on the device you want to trade.

Electronics retailers often have trade-in programs, as well. GameStop has an iPhone trade-in program, and Best Buy offers options for various devices, including laptops. Traded items are typically sold as used phones to other customers or returned to the manufacturer so any valuable parts can be salvaged. Given the current computer chip shortage, this can make a big difference.

However, trade-in value depends on the quality of the device as well as the model. Using a case can help save you money and ensure that items go to waste.

(image credit: Colgate University)

3. Sell
You can sell your old electronics through several outlets. This is a great option if the manufacturer won’t offer a trade-in deal or if you think your device is worth more than the proposed rate. Electronics resale sites can be a great way to ensure you get every penny your used item is worth.

Resale options depend on what type of device you are looking to sell. eBay and Craigslist are popular independent seller sites, but there are more specific options available for electronics. Manufacturers suggest seeing if contractors or a local scrap yard will buy certain electronic components, which can be a good option for devices that are large, old or otherwise challenging to sell.

There are a few online options for devices in good shape that are still reasonably new. Gazelle is a popular site for Apple, Google and Samsung smartphones, as well as Macbook laptops and certain tablets. Swappa is more flexible, accepting virtually any type of item you might want to resell, from smartphones to video game consoles.

4. Donate
While trying to sell your old electronics may sound appealing, it isn’t always possible or your only option. Donating them is a great way to give back to the community and help those who cannot afford new devices. These programs are most popular for laptops and computers, which will get cleaned up and given to local public schools. You are also eligible for tax deductions for donated items.

There are many ways to donate electronics, such as Computers With Causes. One unique program, Get Well Gamers, gives video games and consoles to children’s hospitals, where they serve as a fun outlet for kids receiving medical treatment. Some museums will even take your oldest or most unique devices.

5. Repurpose
If you find that none of the above are possible with one of the devices you are hoping to get rid of, try repurposing it. With a little creativity, you’ll find there are many ways to use electronics besides their original purpose. A flip phone can become part of an art project. A cathode TV can make the perfect hub for a retro gaming setup. This can be a fun activity if you want to get crafty. People have posted some highly imaginative electronics repurposing projects online, often with DIY instructions for others to try out.

Resell, Recycle, Repurpose

Used electronics are worth so much more than simply another addition to the garbage can. There are many ways to pass on your unwanted electronics without creating hazardous e-waste, including some methods that are good for the community as well as the planet. The next time you come across an outdated device you want to get rid of, think about how you can reuse it, how someone else could enjoy it or how it could serve a new purpose.

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