Recycle Those Electronics The Right Way With These Tips

The holiday influx of shiny new gadgets pushes your old devices out of your hands, creating a number of potential pitfalls, such as possible identity theft fueled by info on abandoned hard drives.

The Consumer Electronics Association offered up some tips to make sure you’re e-recycling doesn’t backfire on you. From a press release:

According to the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA)®, 80 percent of consumers will purchase new electronics this holiday season. As some old electronics are removed from homes to make room for the new, CEA offers tips to help consumers and businesses safely and effectively dispose of unwanted electronics.

* Turn in the Old: Most major CE manufacturers and many retailers have reliable, nationwide recycling programs. For instance, Best Buy’s Take Back program, available in all of its U.S. stores, accepts all electronics, regardless of point-of-purchase. Also, many cities and towns have instituted community electronics recycling programs and events. Check out or the EPA’s Website Plug-In to eCycling for a complete list of programs near your home.

* Verify your Recycler: There are several recognized certification programs for e-waste recyclers who are willing to use safe, market-driven recycling methods that respond to the needs of consumers, manufacturers and retailers, including the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) and the Industry Council for Electronic Equipment Recycling (ICER). It is also important for consumers to ask recyclers the process they use to minimize impacts to the environment and community, and to check for certifications on recyclers’ Websites before engaging with them.

* Pay It Forward: In the holiday spirit of giving, donate your unwanted electronics to charity. CollectiveGood collects used cell phones and donates refurbished phones to underprivileged communities around the globe, while Close the Gap provides reused and refurbished computers to various developing countries.

* Protect Your Identity: Recycling devices that store personal information, including computers and smart phones, can put you at risk for identity theft. However, there are many services that can help you erase your personal information from these devices, such as Symantec’s Wipe Info in Norton Utilities, System Works for PCs and Macs, and a free cell phone data eraser tool from ReCellular.

* Buy Green: Many electronics are made from recycled, eco-friendly, and biodegradable materials. Before making a purchase, research the product to find eco-friendly models. Many manufacturers post product descriptions online. When it comes to powering your new gadget, you can also minimize unnecessary waste (and get longer-lasting power) by opting for rechargeable batteries over disposable, whenever possible.

What do you do with your old doodads once they’re rendered obsolete by new stuff?


Edit Your Comment

  1. HogwartsProfessor says:

    Most of mine I run into the ground. The last time I chucked a computer, I took off everything I possibly could and took it to a local recycler. They tear it apart and erase stuff if there’s still anything on it.

  2. tbax929 says:

    Just don’t give them to that company that was on CSI:NY last night. They were taking used electronics that they were supposed to recycle and shipping them off to China so poor Chinese kids could be exposed to all the harmful emissions. Needless to say, someone tried to kill the owner of said company.

    • Roloboto says:

      Lots of old electronics get shipped to third world countries in real life, instead of properly recycled.

  3. nbs2 says:

    If you want to encourage people to recycle, make sure you offer free recycling. Otherwise, what personal incentive do I have to recycle? I’ll just strip the machine for parts, sell those off, and sit on the rest until I come across it in 15 years and end up chucking it since I can’t remember what it was.

  4. GreatWhiteNorth says:

    I recycle personal and business devices only after I have assured myself that data is either deleted/destroyed or rendered unrecoverable (device destroyed).

    On the comment by TBAX929 about recycling going to China… I couldn’t agree more with unfortunate nature of the recycling trade… Too many people and companies are paying real money to have items properly recycled only to have the items sent to a country with lax laws where they become an environmental problem… I invested a great deal of time and resources years ago when I needed to have a few hundred devices recycled finding someone who would do it right and I could verify it was done right.

    This is a major problem that will come back and bite us all in the ass.

    Don’t throw this stuff out. Make the effort to have it recycled.

    • Tankueray says:

      Yes, as the generator of the hazardous waste, you have “cradle to grave” responsibility. If you’re getting rid of that much stuff you need to have manifest and disposal records to CYA in case it happens to end up in a ditch somewhere and it’s traced back to you.

      Granted, RCRA and other regs aren’t actually keeping up with all of our technology, but it’s still the law.

  5. Thora says:

    I always just keep my old stuff as backups just in case the new stuff fails. Case in point- I got a new phone a few days ago. The old one is sitting in my dresser drawer, ready & waiting in case the new one takes a dump. The phone I had before that, however, is on Craigslist.

  6. Orv says:

    I generally drop them off at RePC, a local recycler. They do data destruction, but just to be safe I usually run DBAN ( on old PCs before I drop them off.

  7. Yoko Broke Up The Beatles says:

    I’ve only ever recycled cell phones, and I’ve taken them back to the retailer/service provider that I bought them from.

    Its been free and easy to return, and I assume that the company itself (a national wireless company) would take the necessary steps to protect any sensitive information that may still be on the phone.

    Recylcing FTW. Certainly better than tossing in a landfill.

  8. Tankueray says:

    Thing about the Best Buy program, they will charge you for a CRT monitor – but I think they offset it with a giftcard.

    In Texas, we have a law for computer recycling. You cannot manufacture or sell a computer in the State unless the brand has an approved recycling program on file with the State environmental agency – this includes mom and pops building custom machines.

    I am in fact, typing this on a contraband machine not on the list!!!

    Many areas in Texas have a program with Goodwill for recycling as well. You turn in your stuff, they take any good parts and then send to a registered recycler.

    As for data recovery, I remove my HDDs, if they can’t be used elsewhere I use them for target practice then get my friends together and have a little thermite party. It’s really fun. Benefit of living in the country.

    If your small electronics can still be used, try the various charities out there. If you’re just throwing them in the trash it’s considered hazardous waste.

  9. Tankueray says:

    Also, many retailers have recycling boxes as you enter the store now for your small electronics. Ikea, Walmart, Home Depot, Office Depot are a few I can think of. They don’t all take the same stuff, but there is little excuse for letting any of these things go to the landfill.

    The Texas computer recycling law? The manufacturer has to provide a local drop-off or a box and pre-paid label for you to send back.

  10. RecycleIt says:

    Very helpful article- according to the EPA, E-Waste is the fastest growing stream of trash in the U.S. right now. Not good.

    There’s a really cool company,, that actually pays individuals for their old hand-held devices. There’s a lot of value left in old gadgets and is pioneering the reduce and reuse side of recycling electronics by buying back old devices, then refurbishing them and selling them in the U.S.

    I would highly recommend checking it out- I sold back my almost 2 year old Blackberry Curve 8330 for about $70 and was able to make a donation to on top of that.