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How to recycle household electronics

Advances in technology hit us at an astounding rate. As soon as we buy a new electronic device, a newer, even better version appears on the shelves. But don’t just trash your old electronicsrecycle or reuse them!

Too toxic for trash
Old electronics

What kinds of hazardous materials are we talking about?

The amount of toxins that can accumulate in landfills from a variety of electronics is frightening. The following hazardous materials are an example of common components of a PC that can leach into the environment, creating a cumulative impact upon humans, animals and plant life. Keeping these potentially dangerous materials out of landfills and incinerators by recycling them just makes plain sense!

  • Lead
  • Barium
  • Beryllium
  • Mercury
  • Cadmium
  • Plastics
  • Brominated Flame Retardants
  • Hexavalent Chromium

What options are there other than the trash pile?

  • Donate — That old computer might be garbage to you, but a blessing to someone unable to afford the newest and the best. Whether it’s a computer, VCR, cell phone or other piece of electronic equipment, it can possibly be upgraded or refurbished for someone else’s use. If you’ve recently upgraded to a TV with HD capabilities, your old TV can still be used by someone else with an inexpensive converter box added on. Schools, retirement communities and non-profit organizations are only a few examples of groups that might be thrilled to receive your electronic hand-me-downs.
  • Sell — Companies like Gazelle will pay decent money for your old iPhone and other smart phone brands. Post your old electronics on Craigslist or sell them at a garage sale. But before selling or donating your old items like computers and phones, make sure all of your content is deleted.
  • Recycle — You know how your baby loves to reach for your phone? Why not give him your old phone as his own to use as a toy? Paint it a fun color and let your baby push the buttons and pretend to talk on his very own real life cell phone! Consider handing down your old computer to your older children when you decide to upgrade.

What are some examples of electronics that can be recycled or reused?

Examples of items listed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency include:

  • TVs
  • Computers/monitors/hard drives
  • Cell phones
  • Printers
  • Copiers
  • Radios
  • Telephones
  • PDAs
  • Video games
  • Fax machines

Where can I go to donate or recycle old electronics?

Consider donating to local schools, retirement communities and non-profit organizations — many have programs to collect old electronics. You may want to post working and non-working items on Craigslist. Also, the EPA points us in the right direction for recycling or donating through the following outlets:

Have more questions?

United States


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