It’s not as simple as tossing old phones, computers, or tablets in the trash to get rid of them as you might think. In fact, in many states, it is against the law to dispose of old electronics. Because they contain potentially hazardous substances such as lead and mercury, electronic waste must be disposed of in a safe manner. If your old electronics are still in working order, consider donating them to a charitable organisation or community centre. Alternatively, if they are no longer functional, they should be recycled through a local programme or through the electronics manufacturer so that materials such as plastic and metal can be recycled.
Method 1 Donating Unwanted Electronics
1. Check to see if the electronics you want to donate are in good enough condition. If your electronics are still in good working order and less than 5 years old, they are suitable for donation to charity. Examine them to ensure that they don’t require any major repairs or replacement of parts. The majority of nonprofits will be unable to afford these repairs.
If your electronics do not meet these requirements, they should be recycled instead.
2. Before donating an electronic device, make sure all of the data on it has been deleted. First, make a backup of any content on your device that you want to keep on another device or an external hard drive before proceeding. Check to see that your data is encrypted (iPhones do this automatically but for Androids, you may have to do it manually in your Settings menu). Factory reset the electronic device to return it to its original factory settings after which it will function normally.
In order to perform a factory reset on your smartphone or tablet, navigate to the settings menu. If you’re using an iPhone or iPad, go to Settings > General > Reset. Tap “Security” followed by “Security Wipe” (if you have a Blackberry) or “About” followed by “Reset” on an Android device (for Windows phones).
Another step you can take to protect yourself from identity theft is to remove your SIM or SD card. It is possible that it will still contain data after a factory reset, in which case you should remove it from the device and destroy it.
3. Take the device to a place like a school, a senior centre, or a community centre to demonstrate it. The majority of local schools and centres that don’t require a lot of bandwidth or advanced technology are willing to accept used electronic equipment. This is for students who may not have access to technology at home, as well as elderly people who are learning how to use technology for the first time. For information on what types of electronic devices they’re looking for and how to donate them, call ahead of time.
With the help of the National Cristina Foundation, people who want to donate used electronics can be connected with schools that are in need of such donations. You can use their website to look for schools in your area.
4. Make a donation of the electronic device to a charitable organisation. Always check with the organisation ahead of time to see what kinds of electronics they accept and in what condition. The Electronics Industry Alliance provides a list of all the organisations across the country that accept electronic donations on their website, which can be accessed by clicking here.
There are non-profit organisations that are dedicated to specific devices. Computers with Causes, for example, collects computers and computer accessories, whereas Secure the Call collects cell phones and other mobile devices.
In order to deduct the donation from your tax returns at the end of the year, request a receipt from the organisation.
Method 2 Recycling Electronic Devices
1. Before recycling a device, make sure all personal data on it has been deleted. To properly recycle a computer or laptop, perform a secure wipe or reset, which can be found in the Settings or Start menus of most computers and laptops. If you have a smartphone, tablet or gaming console, you can perform a factory reset by selecting it from the Settings menu.
It is not sufficient to simply erase data from electronic devices. Identity thieves have access to data recovery programmes that can recover information that has been erased.
Download software that is inexpensive (and in some cases even free) and will wipe your device for you on your computer.
Inquire with your local recycling centre to see if they offer data destruction services. Many companies will take care of it for you so that you don’t have to.
2. Remove the batteries from the device so that they can be recycled individually. Find out where to dispose of your old batteries by contacting your local recycling service or visiting a household hazardous waste collection facility in your neighbourhood. On its website, Call2Recycle, a national programme that allows you to recycle household batteries for free, also provides a list of battery recycling locations in every state.
3. You can recycle your electronics at a collection site or a recycling centre in your neighbourhood. Contact your local waste management service or public works department for a list of drop-off locations where you can recycle your old electronics. Before you go, find out what electronic devices they accept (and which ones they do not). In addition, the National Center for Electronics Recycling maintains a database of electronics recyclers throughout the country, which is available for free use.
It is possible that you will be required to pay a small fee for recycling your electronics. For example, in California, recycling televisions is subject to a fee ranging from $5 to $7.
Special collection events, curbside collection, and e-cycling programmes are all available in some cities and states.
4. Inquire with the manufacturer to see if they have any take-back programmes. Make direct contact with the brand (Apple, Sprint, Dell, etc.) and inquire about the services they provide for recycling old electronic equipment. Inquire about the shipping details, including whether they provide free postage or shipping containers for returning your device to them. Many manufacturers also offer discounts or other benefits to customers who recycle their devices through them.
Inquire with the electronics stores in your area (such as Best Buy or RadioShack) about whether they have an electronics recycling programme. You can ask them to assist you in returning an electronic device to the manufacturer if you need it.
Some states, such as New York, have laws requiring electronics manufacturers to accept their products back for recycling at no cost to the consumer.
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