How to Dispose of Old and Broken Electronics

Know How to Dispose of Your Electronics?

For many people, recycling is second nature—just the thought of tossing an empty milk carton, soda can, or newspaper in the trash is sacrilege. But while certain materials get recycled with some regularity, others are much more likely to get thrown away: For instance, in the US, 68% of all paper products generated in 2018 were recycled, whereas just 37% of consumer electronics were recycled.

This is a bummer for a couple of reasons. Mining raw materials to make new electronics generates pollution—metal mining has been by far the biggest emitter of toxic chemicals in the US over the past 20 years—and it takes much more energy to mine most metals than it does to recycle them.

And when a phone, laptop, or other electronic device ends up in a landfill, it can leach heavy metals and other harmful chemicals into soil and water systems, threatening the health of people, animals, and other organisms living nearby.

The upshot is, if you take the time to recycle your electronic devices, there’s a good chance they’ll actually get recycled—or at least parts of them will.

While plastic is notoriously difficult and unprofitable to recycle, recycling metal is relatively simple—once it has been salvaged and sorted, it can be melted down and reshaped infinitely—and recycling metal has become much more lucrative as demand for electronics continues to rise. Battery recycling is also mandated by federal laws and many state laws.

Consider repair and reuse options first
Before recycling an electronic device, first consider whether it still has some life in it. For instance, maybe your phone won’t hold a charge anymore, but it might make a serviceable backup TV screen, bookshelf sound system, universal remote, or gaming console. Otherwise, try these relatively simple and sustainable alternatives:

Repair: If you like to tinker, organizations such as iFixit and Instructables offer handy guides to repairing many types of electronics. YouTube has tons of tutorials, as well, and there might even be a repair café in your area to help you troubleshoot if you get stuck. You might find that a simple fix can add years of usability to your device.
Sell or trade: Some tech companies (including Apple and Dell) and retailers (such as Amazon and Best Buy) have trade-in or buy-back programs for used electronics. You can also list your old devices on resale sites such as Back Market, Craigslist, Decluttr, eBay, ItsWorthMore, or Swappa to try to get some cash back.
Donate: Goodwill accepts most electronics, and many local thrift stores, shelters, and nonprofits are happy to take donated devices. Freecycle and Buy Nothing groups offer another good opportunity to unload your used electronics for free.
How to recycle old devices
Whether you’re finally getting rid of an ancient desktop computer that’s been collecting dust in your garage, or you need to unload a useless kitchen gadget you impulse-bought on Instagram, here are the best ways we’ve found to recycle electronics:

Drop them off: Contact your city’s sanitation department or use a searchable database on sites such as Call2Recycle, Earth911, GreenCitizen, and Greener Gadgets to find a recycling facility near you that accepts electronic-waste drop-offs. Also, keep an eye out for e-waste recycling drives in your community—or organize one yourself.
Mail them in: First, ask your city’s sanitation department whether a local e-waste recycler has a mail-in program. Otherwise, the Earth911 database shows results for national mail-in programs that accept e-waste from your zip code. We’ve recycled electronics via mail-in boxes from Call2Recycle (which accepts batteries and cell phones only) and TerraCycle (which accepts a wide variety of e-waste) and found them both to be easy and convenient to use—though, unlike many drop-off options, they charge for these services.
Leave them out for pickup: Sadly, most municipalities don’t offer curbside pickup for electronics. But you can see if yours is one of the few that do by checking the Earth911 database for a color-coded list of the items accepted during routine pickups. You can also contact your local recycler to ask if it offers monthly or annual e-waste pickups, or if it will let you schedule one.
Some simple precautions
If an electronic device is damaged beyond repair, the best thing to do is recycle it. But first, take the following steps to protect yourself and others from harm:

Wipe your data: Just as you should always shred documents containing personal info before recycling them, you should erase all data from an electronic device before getting rid of it. This minimizes the chances of a ne’er-do-well (how I like to refer to data brokers and cyber-criminals in my head) gaining access to your data and exploiting it. If you’re not sure how to factory-reset a phone, tablet, laptop, or other internet-connected device, we have a guide—just make sure to back up any files you need on another device and/or the cloud before doing so.
Get rid of grime: It’s a good idea to sanitize electronic devices before donating them, since many bacteria, viruses, and fungi can be transmitted on their outer surfaces. Even if your electronics are destined for the recycling bin, chances are good that other humans will be handling them en route to or at a materials-recovery facility. We have step-by-step guides for cleaning a variety of devices—from office gear such as laptops and keyboards to wearables like smartwatches and earbuds to household appliances such as vacuums, toasters, and more. In many cases, all you need is a rag, a few drops of dish soap, and some warm water.
Defuse potential hazards: If you’re unloading any device with a built-in battery, such as a phone or a vape pen, first find out if the facility has any additional safety requirements to prevent the battery from starting a fire or exploding. The facility may recommend that you remove the battery first (if you can—some battery compartments are glued shut, making removal nearly impossible), tape up the battery terminals, or seal it in a plastic bag to prevent chemical leakage. The facility also might request that you separate those items from electronics that don’t contain a battery, such as a phone charging cable or a corded hair dryer.
As important as it is to recycle electronics, even more critical are your shopping choices. Seek out things designed with longevity in mind, such as a lantern with a replaceable battery, a smart speaker with a fabric cover that you can easily remove and clean, or a charging cable with extra-reinforced housings to withstand daily plugging and unplugging. When you can, buy used or refurbished tech. And before upgrading to the latest model, ask yourself if you can get away with using the one you have for a bit longer.

Bay Hauling is here to help! Contact us today! We can help recycle old or broken electronics for you today with a quick, safe and hassle free pick up!

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