How do you prepare electronics for recycling?

As a civilization, we consume an enormous amount of technological equipment. This is partly owing to the proliferation of new technology, which renders older equipment obsolete, and partly due to the natural wear and tear our electronics endure. A laptop’s estimated lifespan is 11.8 years, a desktop computer’s is 6.5 years, a tablet’s is five years, and a smartphone’s is barely two years.

These short lifespans generate a significant amount of electronic garbage. According to the United Nations University, the annual global buildup of e-waste reached 49.3 million tons in 2016. By 2021, this figure is expected to reach 57.5 million tons.

What is electronic waste?

Electronic waste, or e-waste, is any electronic device that has reached the end of its useful life. This could be an out-of-date computer that is no longer functional or a VCR that is no longer relevant or useful to the owner.

Fortunately, nearly all e-waste is recyclable. Even if the device is not operational, it contains recyclable plastic, metal, glass, palladium, copper, silver, and even gold components. According to the EPA, 35 thousand pounds of copper, 772 pounds of silver, 75 pounds of gold, and 33 pounds of palladium can be recovered for every million cell phones recycled.

How Do You Recycle Old Electronics?

Recycling your electronics entails properly disposing of them in a manner that allows for their reuse. It is prohibited in many states to discard these electronics in a standard garbage or recycling receptacle. Electronic products include hazardous materials such as mercury, lead, and cadmium, which must be disposed of properly and safely. There are three primary methods for recycling your device: give it, get it recycled by technology firms, or take it to a designated recycler yourself. To assist you in determining the best method for recycling your equipment, view our infographic on electronics recycling or continue reading below.

1. Make a donation

If your device is still functional (and in some situations, even if it isn’t), you can donate it to those in need of electronic equipment. Numerous charity can make use of your smartphone or repair and resell it to benefit their cause. Donating to these charities benefits the organization’s larger good, but if you gift to a library, school, or nonprofit program, you may qualify for a tax deduction on your next year’s tax return. Consider making an electronic donation to one of the renowned charities listed below.

Donate to Charities Working With Underprivileged Communities

  • World Computer Exchange strives to close the digital divide for children and youth in impoverished countries by utilizing donations to construct computer labs in elementary schools and institutions.
  • human-I-T is a charity organization that refurbishes discarded technology in order to make it available to low-income individuals and charities.
  • Komputers 4 R Kids is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to distributing repurposed technology to poor students, families, and schools.

Donate to Military Charities

  • Mobile Phones for Soldiers accepts for resale gently used cell phones. Profits are used to purchase prepaid calling minutes for deployed personnel.
  • Pickup Please is an excellent choice for folks who lack the time or inclination to take their belongings to a drop-off facility. Pickup Please contact us to arrange for pickup of your electronics—often within 24 hours! Currently, this service is available in 13 states. Proceeds from the resale of the electronics benefit soldiers and their families.

Donate to Domestic Abuse and Emergency Services

  • The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence collects and refurbishes unwanted cell phones and electronics (a minimum of three items). A percentage of the proceeds towards their initiative to combat domestic abuse.
  • Secure the Call accepts used cell phones and modifies them to allow just 911 calls. These emergency phones are subsequently distributed to domestic violence organizations, senior citizen facilities, and police and sheriff agencies.

Donate to Children’s Hospitals

  • The Make-A-Wish Foundation takes new and gently used laptops, game consoles, and music players and donates them to hospitalized children to help them feel more at ease during their stay.

Donates to a Variety of Charities

  • Computers with Causes refurbishes laptops, desktops, servers, and other technology equipment for distribution to schools, foster homes, veterans’ organizations, and other charity organizations.
  • The National Cristina Foundation is a nonprofit organization that identifies local organizations and schools in need and then directs your money to them.
  • The Goodwill collects usable electronics and resells them to benefit their mission. If the products are no longer functional, they will be recycled safely through their Reconnect program (a partnership with Dell).
  • Donation Town collects and distributes your electronic donation to the designated charity. They partner with organizations such as The Salvation Army, Hope Foundation, and Habitat for Humanity.
  • eBay Giving Works enables you to auction off your electronics and donate the earnings to a charity of your choice.
  • Earth911 is a portal that enables you to search for donation locations in your area and to filter donations based on the sort of devices you possess.
  • illustration of electronics recycling

2. Allow Technology Companies to Recycle It

Another method for recycling electronics is to return them to the firm from where they were purchased. Numerous technology companies and electronic shops provide recycling schemes to make the process easier for consumers. Several of them even reward you for recycling your electronics through them. For example, Apple allows you to trade in an item for a discount on a future purchase, while Gamestop accepts electronics for cash or credit in the store.

Other technology companies just provide locations for you to drop off your technology or the ability to ship it in for recycling.

Several companies that provide recycling services include the following:

  • Best Buy — offers recycling choices in-store, online, and through haul-away services.
  • Dell – provides drop-off locations, mail-in choices, and trade-in programs.
  • Epson – recycles Epson hardware.
  • HP – provides a secure method of disposing of printer equipment, as well as personal computers and mobile devices.
  • Gateway – provides information about recycling your computer or battery.
  • LG — accepts televisions and mobile devices via mail-in recycling and drop-off locations.
  • Samsung – Samsung offers mail-in recycling for mobile devices as well as drop-off locations for computers and televisions.
  • Sony – collects and recycles computers, televisions, and rechargeable batteries.
  • Sprint — accepts buy-backs and donations in-store and via mail.
  • Staples – provides a trade-in program for devices, free recycling of rechargeable batteries, and a rewards program for recycled ink.
  • TCL – provides information on recycling and reusing TCL items.
  • VIZIO — accepts PCs and televisions via mail-in or drop-off.
  • Xerox — accepts Xerox items via mail-in, haul-away, and recycling.

3. Take It to a Recycling Center

You may have a large number of gadgets to dispose of or lack access to the aforesaid choices. If this is the case, you may always locate a local electronics recycling. There are several types of recyclers, including municipal, private, and national program recycling. Check out this recycling map to find one near you that meets your needs.

Numerous charitable groups and municipal communities offer recycling services for obsolete devices. Call2Recycle, for example, provides drop-off places for rechargeable batteries and cell phones around the United States. Simply enter your ZIP code at to locate a location.

Access may be restricted due to worries about COVID-19, so contact the drop-off location prior to leaving home to confirm that it is open and receiving recyclables.

Additionally, you can search for local recycling choices by entering your ZIP code and the type of goods you wish to recycle into the Computer Technology Association’s Recycle Locator or Earth911’s comprehensive recycling database. Earth911 also provides assistance over the phone at 800-CLEANUP.

For additional options and information on how e-waste is recycled, visit Sustainable Electronics Recycling International, which maintains a database of accredited electronic recycling facilities.

What to Do Before Recycling Electronics

Once you’ve determined how to recycle your device, you’ll want to make a backup of the data on it. Your device may be sold or transferred, and you do not want to provide anyone access to your personal and private information. While some businesses may offer to clean the device for you, it is essential to wipe it yourself to ensure no information is leaked.

Make a Backup of Your Data

Ensure that you have a backup of all your papers, images, and data, either on a hard drive or in the cloud. Transferring this information to your new device before entirely erasing it can be beneficial. This manner, you’ll know whether or not everything necessary has been effectively saved.

Disconnect All Attached Storage

This may seem self-evident, but it is critical that your device has no remaining storage. DVD drives, card readers, floppy drives, and USB connections are all examples of this. Before recycling, these materials should be removed.

If you’re donating a digital camera, media player, or mobile phone, a memory card or SIM card containing all your data may be included. This will be situated near the device’s battery and should be removed prior to giving it away. If the device does not come equipped with an external memory card, you will need to connect it to your computer in order to delete the internal memory.

Delete Your Data

After removing the external memory, you’ll need to delete the internal data. Resetting the device to factory settings should delete any data stored on it, from passwords to images. There is disk cleaning software you can get for a computer if you want to be extra cautious, but a hard reset will usually do the job. To do this, find your device type below and follow the steps.

  1. Wipe Your Android Settings → System → Advanced → Reset options → Eliminate all data (factory reset)
  2. Wipe Your iOS Settings → General → Reset → Erase All Content and Settings
  3. Wipe Your Windows Computer Settings → Update & Security → Recover → Reset this PC → Get Started. Note: Choose to remove all personal files when prompted.
  4. Wipe Your Chromebook or Chrome Tablet Settings → Advanced → Powerwash
  5. Wipe Your Mac Macs are a little tougher to wipe. You’ll have to begin by restarting the device. Once it begins to boot up hold down Option+Command+R until a spinning globe appears on your screen. Release the keys then choose the option that says “Reinstall macOS” and click “Continue.” Follow the instructions when it asks and select your main hard drive to be wiped.

Disconnect the Device From Your Online Accounts

If you’ve had your device for a while, you probably have it connected to online accounts such as Facebook, Twitter, Google, Apple or Microsoft. To ensure that the new owner of the device isn’t able to access these accounts, you’ll need to remotely delete the device from the accounts. You can do this in the security and privacy settings of these apps. There will be a section that says “Where You’re Logged In” or “Recently used devices” where you can remove devices that have access to the account.