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3 ways to recycle your outdated electronics

3 ways to recycle your outdated electronics
Damrong Rattanapong | Dreamstime.com

Your electronics are everything these days. They keep you in touch with your loved ones, they help you keep track of your schedule, they let you shop from the comfort of your home, and they entertain you. But, inevitably, they start to get outdated, or they eventually kick the bucket. It gets to be time to throw them away and get new electronics -- except you can't just throw old electronics away. They have to be recycled.

Electronics are filled with parts that, if left in a landfill, would be harmful to the environment. On top of that, just throwing away something that once was so valuable to you is a waste -- a waste of your nostalgia, but mostly a waste of resources.

Electronics can still be useful to some people, even if they're not working at 100 percent, or even at all. So be kind to the environment, and benefit the world a little by properly recycling your old electronics in any of the following three ways:

1. Bring them to a recycler

Because electronics are so relevant and prevalent these days, recyclers for them have popped up in basically every community you can imagine, or at least somewhat near them. In fact, in some cases, cities and towns themselves sponsor special collection days for electronics, so you can leave them outside your home and have them safely disposed of with little effort on your part. Check out TIA E-cycling Central for information about this within your community; just click on your state, and see what cities and programs are available.

Communities that don't pick up electronics themselves may still have e-cycling businesses with drop-off locations. One group that specifically takes rechargeable batteries (and cellphones, when the batteries can't be removed) is Call2Recycle. On their website, just click on "Where to Recycle" under the Recycling 101 drop-down menu, and type in your zip code on the page. From there, you'll know where to go to drop off your rechargeable batteries.

Recycling more than just batteries and cellphones? Check out the websites for e-Stewards, and Sustainable Electronics Recycling International (SERI). Both have ways of searching for recyclers by location, and by what items the recyclers take.

SERI and e-Stewards can also certify you or your business as electronic recyclers by you completing an application, and agreeing to certain standards of disposal for the devices that come into your possession. Learn more about electronic recycling by learning about these certifications, and utilize them so e-Stewards and SERI can help promote your business to clientele on their sites.

2. Donate them

Another simple way of getting rid of outdated electronics, even if they're not working, is to donate them to charity shops and nonprofit organizations. See if local senior centers in your area need a new TV, if you have a better model for your living room now. Or check with a rec center, and if they could use laptops or tablets for tutoring.

If local places aren't accepting donations, there are a few programs you can try. Dell Reconnect partners with Goodwill to accept computers and computer accessories. If it connects to your computer, Goodwill and Dell Reconnect will take it, even if it's not working. This program operates out of all Goodwill locations, so you can head over to your local one today and donate your electronics right away!

Another organization to donate computers and computer accessories to is World Computer Exchange. World Computer Exchange has a list on its website of accepted materials, as well as a list of Chapters it has accepting donations. No Chapter in your area? No problem, World Computer Exchange takes donation via mail. Just know the organization can only take working electronics, and the computers in question have to be dual-core or quad-core desktops, laptops, or tablets in order to be sent. Check your computer for stickers confirming its core number, or go to a World Computer Exchange Chapter to have them evaluate your machine for you.

For charitable donations of cellphones, try Secure the Call, a group that provides free 911 emergency-only cellphones to domestic violence centers, senior centers, and police and sheriff departments via donations. This allows donated phones to protect vulnerable populations, so it's a great place to send your old phone -- just make sure it's still working, or the group can't use it. Secure the Call takes mailed donations, and you can even fill out a form so they pay the postage for you. Or, if you're feeling generous, pay the postage yourself, and consider it a donation to keep the organization going.

Want to keep your donation more web-based? eBay for Charity lets you sell used electronics of any kind, and you can donate all or part of your proceeds to any charity you want. This one does necessitate other people wanting to buy your electronics, which might be trickier if they're not working. But tech-savvy folks might want them for parts, so there's no harm listing your items, and seeing what bites you get so you can support a cause you care about.

Remember with donations: get and keep your receipt, so your donation of your old electronics can get you some tax deductions! In other words, get rid of tech you don't want, while also saving yourself money in the long run. It's a real win-win.

3. Give them to a tech firm

The company who produced your outdated electronic device likely has a program in place to buy it or take it back from you, so they can use it for parts or just recycle it. Check out a particular company's website to be sure -- certainly Sprint's Buyback program offers account credits up to $300 for mobile phones from any carrier, with free shipping to get it to them, and AT&T lets you trade in or recycle cellphones and cellphone accessories as well. Apple GiveBack lets you trade any electronics Apple manufactures for up to $1,000 in gift cards or store credit so you can buy newer models, and if your device doesn't qualify, they'll still recycle it for you absolutely free.

Electronics chains also accept outdated or unusable electronics. Best Buy has many recycling options, even if you didn't buy the device from Best Buy. Office Depot and Staples have offers to pay $2 per printer cartridge you turn in for up to 10 cartridges a month, so long as you're a member of their affinity programs. If you don't want the membership, don't worry, most printer manufacturers, including HP, Epson, and Canon, also all have recycling programs (just without the buyback).

Check the EPA website for a chart of the different turn-in and buyback policies companies have regarding their electronics. You can search the list by manufacturer, or by product.

Electronics are incredibly important to us in this day and age, and can have second lives in a variety of ways when they get outdated or stop working. Make sure you dispose of them correctly via any of the ways above so they can keep being useful, and not do environmental harm while maybe making you a little money via buybacks or tax deductions. Your community, your wallet, tech companies, and the planet will all thank you for it.

Now you can trade in your old Android or Windows phone for a new iPhone

You could earn a gift card by recycling your phone through Apple, even if it's not an iPhone.

Learn how here.

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