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Recycle your old tech gear

Lisa Schmeiser | April 23, 2013
What to do with your old tech gear when it no longer works? Recycle it. We show you how and where to be responsible with outdated stuff.

Now, on to recycling

Broadly speaking, you have three recycling options: You can drop off your unwanted stuff in person somewhere; you can ship it away; or you can donate it to a willing organization.

Drop it off in person. The advantage to dropping off your gear is that you don't need to really plan ahead and print out prepaid labels (as you would if you were shipping things away); you just toss your stuff in the car and go. Several national retail chains have set up recycling options for everything from batteries to toner cartridges to mobile phones. Below, some of the most ubiquitous:

You can bring your old iPod to any Apple Retail Store and get 10 percent off a new one. (Note: this does not apply to iPod shuffles).

GreenpeaceIf you thought computers from the late 1990s were ugly on the desktop, wait til you see several thousand of them in a landfill.

Dell has set up a printer recycling program in conjunction with the office supply chain Staples, where you can drop off Dell-branded used ink and toner cartridges at participating locations. The program is free. (Staples takes any brand of empty ink and toner cartridge through its own recycling program--and you'll even get back $2 in Staples rewards for each cartridge you recycle.)

Hewlett-Packard has also partnered with Staples as a drop-off point for its old computing equipment and printer cartridges. Again, you can drop off your old equipment for free.

Acer works with Best Buy's in-store recycling program. Check Acer's website to see what programs the computer manufacturer offers in your state.

Some large chains have recycling programs as well. OfficeMax, for example, will take your old printer/toner cartridges, as will Walgreens.

Finally, who among us doesn't have a ratking of cables that you've been holding on to since the Clinton administration? Happily, most electronics recycling places will take any and all cables you have, as well, because the cables have copper that can be stripped out. If you really want to brighten the day of whoever is stuck dealing with your cables, take the time to untangle them, sort them by size, and use twist ties to make compact little bundles of each cable.

You've also got the option of dropping off your unwanted stuff at a local recycling center. LG, Sony, and Toshiba all provide location-based lookups for electronics recycling centers that take their wares. You can also find one through eStewards, or Greener Gadgets. When you do find a center, call ahead and ask the following questions:

  • Do you accept electronic devices from individuals, or do you work only with businesses?
  • What are your policies on destroying personal data that may still be on used computers or cell phones?
  • Do you destroy storage media?
  • Can I get a record of the methods used on my old electronics?
  • What environmental management guidelines do you follow?
  • What percentage of the materials you collect are recycled and what percentage is disposed?
  • What fees will you charge for disposing of computer monitors? Televisions? Or do you charge a flat fee for a carload of items? (The first time I used a recycling center, 11 years ago, I paid $35 to get rid of two laptops. That experience made me appreciate the free programs set up by manufacturers.)


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