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How to Properly Recycle Your Gadgets

The holidays are arguably the most common electronics upgrade season of the year, which means plenty of people will be getting new shiny gadgets and recycling their old ones. Activists estimate that 50–80 percent of the 300 to 400 thousand tons of electronics collected for recycling in the US each year ends up overseas, meaning they probably aren't being recycled the way we imagine.

"Workers in countries such as China, India, and Nigeria then use hammers, gas burners, and their bare hands to extract metals, glass, and other recyclables, exposing themselves and the environment to a cocktail of toxic chemicals," according to AP. Almost as troubling is the volume of used electronics that don't make it to any recycling plant. Here's more:

Most of the 2 million tons of old electronics discarded annually by Americans goes to US landfills, according to US Environmental Protection Agency data. But a growing number of states are banning such waste from landfills, which could drive more waste into the recycling stream and fuel exports, activists say.

Wondering how you can responsibly recycle your electronic goods?

  • Give them back to the maker!: According to AP, eight states, including five this year, have passed laws that require companies to take back their goods. Apple, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, and Sony all take back their products at no charge. Some require consumers to mail in their old gear, while others have drop-off centers.
  • Sell it!: Just because you are finished with a computer, MP3 player, or camera doesn't mean someone else won't love it. After erasing your device's memory you can sell it on Craigslist or Amazon. If you don't feel comfortable selling it online, give it to a family member who doesn't have a computer.
  • Give it to a reuse effort: is an nonprofit service project that serves as a regional and nationwide exchange board directly connecting those wishing to dispose of computers and nonprofit organizations in need. The service is free and simple to use, making it easy to keep good technology out of the waste stream by putting it back into productivity.


Green Green 9 years
great to give at the end of the year too!
desertbanshee desertbanshee 9 years
Good info, and inspires me to learn how to erase my hard drives. (This stuff is piling up in a cabinet because I have been concerned about privacy issues if I recycled them.)
Ultress Ultress 9 years i've gotten rid of a bunch of stuff this way. it goes to people who need it (usually) and isn't just for gadgets--it's for just about everything.
Leopardcc Leopardcc 9 years
I have a ton of old gadgets that I need to do something will! Thanks!
thoroughlymodern thoroughlymodern 9 years
Also check out Comedy Central's for more tips. Click here to jump directly to the page that deals with disposing of electronics, but the rest of the site is really worth checking out too. This is very useful, thanks GeekSugar!
Fiend Fiend 9 years
Thanks Calamari, im sure my poor laptop would want me to say thank you on its behalf =)
calamari calamari 9 years
Hi Fiend, When you format your hard drive, make sure that you don't use the "quick format" option. Quick format doesn't really erase the data at all. I also went to google and searched for "erase your hard drive" and found a bunch of free programs and articles that should help you completely clear off your hard drive. If you are really worried, a hammer would work too :)
aimeeb aimeeb 9 years
I always see people just dumping monitors and such. I wish they realized there are proper ways to dispose of such things...
Fiend Fiend 9 years
HOw do you fully erase data from your pc?? im clueless, i have an old laptop but im scared to toss it with my data on it. i was thinking of taking a hammer to it but if i can erase and donate i would rather do that.
geohiker geohiker 9 years
as we start picking up more and more technology items, this is becoming a bigger issue. Thanks for giving us some info.
Gdeeaz Gdeeaz 9 years
i read about this yesterday in the los angeles times news paper.
calamari calamari 9 years
This is really wonderful and important information. Thanks GeekSugar. I don't live anywhere near a Walmart, but I've heard that they have a place to drop off old electronics as well.
horcruxes horcruxes 9 years
yay good to know!
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