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How to recycle smartphones, computers and tablets

How to recycle smartphones, computers and tablets

We might try to hide it, but most of us have a technology “drawer of shame.” This is the place where we toss our defunct cellphones, broken tablets, and outdated laptops. You may even have a corner of your closet where old desktops go to languish, never to be booted up again.

It’s time to conquer your tech clutter and get those dusty devices back out into the light so you can properly recycle them. You will be doing the right thing by not just tossing them into the trash and you can also reclaim some space in your home.

Recycling your old gadgets isn’t as troublesome as you might think. It’s easier than ever to find the right place to let your old technology move on.

Take a moment to prepare

Before you actually recycle your gadget, you need to get it ready. Start by backing up any data you want to keep, provided the device is still functioning. You might choose cloud storage for this task, or just simply transfer computer files to a USB drive for safekeeping.

Next, erase the data. Check out our Komando guides for doing a hard reset on your smartphone and for wiping out your Android phone. If your outdated machine is a computer, then check out our tips for safely deleting data on your PC or Mac.

Here are 3 ways to destroy an old hard drive.

If you’re recycling a smartphone or tablet with a cell connection, then you can pull out the SIM card. Double-check your gadgets for any SD cards or other plug-in memory devices you may have overlooked.

Sell or recycle?

If your device is still in good working condition, you may be able to get a little cash by selling it to a service like Decluttr (get 10% Extra on trade-ins with promo code 10KOMANDO). You can also get great refurbished devices there too!  For much older devices and ones that are out of order, your best bet is to do the right thing environmentally and recycle them through proper channels.

Look local

Many local residential waste service providers also handle electronic waste, which they may call “e-waste.” Check with your sanitation department to see if there’s a waste recycling center that accepts drop-offs of tech items. Some will even let you schedule an at-home curbside pick-up. Also keep an eye out for local recycling events, which may be offered through your city or by private companies that specialize in electronics recycling.

Visit a retailer that recycles

National chains like Best Buy and Staples offer some easy recycling options you can take advantage of while you’re out running your usual errands. Staples, for example, accepts everything from calculators to digital cameras as well as desktop computers, tablets, and phones. The same goes for Best Buy. Just take your old device to the store to participate in the free recycling program.

Apple is another good source for recycling, especially for Apple-branded products like MacBooks. You can even trade in certain iPhones, iPads, and Macs for Apple Store credit. Either stop into a store location or check out the online option instead.


One other way to handle your no-longer-needed cellphone is to donate it to a good cause. Cell Phones for Soldiers accepts both smartphones and tablets. You can either ship them in or find a local drop-off location. The nonprofit provides free talk time to soldiers and assists with emergency funding for both active-duty personnel and veterans.

You may also find a local charity that accepts used phones and tablets to help with its fundraising, so ask around.

From old laptops to fabulous jewelry

It sounds unreal, but an actress famous for the "Twilight" series is turning outdated laptops into beautiful, wearable art.

Click here to learn how Dell and Nikki Reed are recycling computers into fashion jewelry.

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