New gifts replacing old electronics? Don’t toss the old

By Nathan Proctor
Director, Campaign for the Right to Repair

How to re-use, salvage and recycle electronics you can't use anymore. 

Electronic waste can pose health and safety risks if you don’t dispose of it properly. So, this holiday season if you are replacing an older or broken piece of electronics with a new gift make sure the product, its components or the materials in the product end up in the right place -- and get reused or recycled if possible. Here’s how you can responsibly handle your used electronics. 

Selling used electronics -- what to know. 

A number of electronics sellers refurbish used electronics. Many manufacturers, including Amazon, Best Buy, Gazelle, phone carriers, and more have refurbishing programs. If your device works, it has value. For example, when I put my older phone’s specifications in Gazelle, it offered me $75. To protect you privacy, you should wipe personal data off the device. You can find instructions online. The buyer might also promise to erase your data, but it's best to do it yourself. 

Donate used electronics to people who could use them.

Small non-profits across the country rehab and either sell or donate used devices to people who need them -- from students to soldiers. You can find local non-profits by searching “electronics donation near me.” You can check Impact Recyclers to see if they serve your area; they represent certified electronics recyclers who employ people facing significant barriers to work. 

You can also use larger national programs, such as the partnership between Dell and Goodwill, the World Computer Exchange,, or Cell Phones for Soldiers. If products don’t work, valuable components in the device still can usually be salvaged and used for future repairs. 

When and how to recycle electronic waste. 

The best thing for the environment is to find ways to reuse the product or its parts. But if you can’t, recycling is your next option. Don’t put electronics -- especially anything with the battery still inside the device -- in the normal waste stream. Batteries have been known to cause fires in waste facilities and landfills

Look for the “wheelie bin” icon on your device. That signifies that it must be recycled in an e-waste facility, according to EU law.

Many cities and towns have special protocols for electronic waste, and you can check with your waste service provider to get more details. Certain kinds of electronic waste -- appliances, batteries and light bulbs -- aren’t always accepted at general municipal waste drives, but cities will often have special drives and locations for items such as batteries.

Many companies that sell electronics, including Best Buy or Staples, will also recycle broken electronics for you. For a comprehensive list of options, check out TIA E-cycling Central’s website. 

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