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Electronics recycling: What to do with old laptops, phones, cameras and batteries


What do you do with your phone when it serves its purpose? We give you some options.

Josh Miller / CNET

Gadgets can be piled up over the years – new ones come out, old ones break. You probably have a box full of old batteries and cables and some old phones, laptops and desktops are left. You might keep them for nostalgic reasons (I admit I hung out on my first Nokia block phone to “show my kids one day”), or because you thought you might be able to use them again along the line.

Be brave. Be focused. Peek into the drawers, the garage or a dark corner in the closet and you will surely find a high electronics that you really do not need.

Coronavirus-related social distancing and quarantine may mean you spend more time organizing your home and removing your old laptops, cameras and phones.

Regardless of technology, when it’s finally time to say goodbye, there’s a right way to throw away your old stuff – and many wrong ways. I will help you.

Read more: Best places to sell your used electronics 2020

What should I do before I get rid of my device?

When you are done with a gadget, make sure that it is finished with you too. Although it may be old, someone just needs a charger to restart your old phone or computer to access your personal information.

The moral of this story: Make sure you back up everything you want from your device – photos, videos, songs – and then perform a factory reset. Don’t worry, we’ll give you tips on how to wipe your device in the section on phones, laptops and cameras below.

All the dead batteries

There are a couple of ways to dispose of disposable and rechargeable batteries properly, such as AA, AAA and D cell batteries which are common in flashlights, toys and other household electronics.

Best Buy, Whole Foods, Home Depot, Lowes and Staples all have free drop-off locations to remove dead batteries from your hands. I suggest that you collect your used batteries in a container and take them in when it gets full.

You can also check out Earth911, a website that helps you find the nearest recycling site based on the type of battery you need to dispose of (eg alkaline, button cell, lithium, zinc-air). Call2Recycle can also help you find places to recycle your batteries.

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E-waste can be revived after professional recyclers extract copper and other valuable materials.

Sims recycling solutions

How to recycle phones

Phones and their batteries are some of the easiest electronics to recycle, according to Call2Recycle.

Remember to transfer data and photos on your old phone to a new phone or otherwise save your photos before restoring the factory. Remember to delete SIM card, if it’s still there.

The company accepts all phones and batteries regardless of size, make, model or age. Call2Recycle can renovate the device for resale or recycle the material for a new device. If you look hard enough, you can even Get Paid for recycling your phone.

If your phone is new enough, you may be able to exchange it with an operator if you buy a new phone or sell it on the open market. Otherwise, if it has lost a lot of value, recycling may be the best option to get a dusty phone out of your hands.

Read: How to sell or recycle your phone for cash


Cables are also a fair game.

Taylor Martin / CNET

Best Buy accepts three phones per household per day, Lowes has recycling centers at all locations, Home Depot accepts phones up to £ 11 and Staples also accepts phones.

Whole Foods works with Secure the Call to provide 911 emergency telephones only to senior citizens and abusers. Just make sure you bring the charger.

You can also donate your easy-to-use phones to soldiers’ cell phones. The program helps troops call their families at home for free. Local communities can also take donations as part of a city operation.

I also suggest that you contact your employer to see how it handles e-waste. You may be able to add some items to your collection.

Easy recycling of laptops

Before scrapping your old computer, ask yourself if it is still useful. If it is less than five years old, it is likely that someone else can use it according to TechSoup. Newer laptops can go to local nonprofits or libraries after being refurbished. You can find a program through the Microsoft Register Refurbisher directory.

If the device is too old or out of shape to donate, you can recycle it. Again, Earth911 makes it easy: just search for “laptop” and enter your zip code to find the nearest drop-off location. Dell’s Goodwill Reconnect software also accepts old and broken hardware.

Make sure that the program you are leaving your old hardware with is considered on the Environmental Protection Agency’s certified electronics recycling website and feel free to contact the renovator or recycler to double check.


Newer laptops make great donations. Just remember to wipe the units first.

Sarah Tew / CNET

When you bring in your laptop, remember all the goodies that come with it – keyboard, mouse, printer, modem and other software. Usually, remodelers can repackage all of this. Just remember to clear your data first!

In addition, you can donate your tax on your laptop. Keep track of what you have donated anyway. You can learn more in the Sage BlueBook or section 170 of the Federal Income Tax Code if you feel particularly ambitious.

Chargers and cables can also be recycled

If you’re like my husband and keep drawers on drawers with threads, chargers and cables in the basement (only if you ever need one) it may be time to release them. You can search for Capital Scrap Metal or InvestmentMine to see if the wires you have lying around may be worth anything. For example, as of April 2020, copper goes for $ 2.35 per pound, according to InvestmentMine.

You can also drop your cables at Best Buy, staples and other places. Chargers can also be reused. Sometimes if a cord stops working with one device, you might be able to get it to work with another. Economical!

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Otherwise, you can donate your old cables, cords, chargers and cords to local science, technology, engineering and math programs, Google STEM, National Center for Electronics Recycling or Earth911.

Yes, you should recycle your old camera

If you’re still holding camera relics from the early 2000s, we have some places to take them out of your hands.

Best Buy and Home Depot accept cameras and camcorders. Lowes also takes cameras. And of course, Earth911 and Call2Recycle are options for the breadth of your used electronics.


Large TVs may seem like a pain to donate, but you can find a service, like Best Buy, to pick it up for $ 20. Consider it a donation to the environment.

Sarah Tew / CNET

TV recycling is possible

TVs are bigger electronics, so it can take a little more elbow grease to get the job done, but don’t let that scare you. As with donating and recycling phones and laptops, there are some things you need to know about getting rid of your old TV. If the kit still works, consider donating it to a used store.

If you can reset it to factory defaults, do so for smart TVs that are likely to contain personal information. Disconnect everything, bundle the strings neatly and tape them to the device. Use a trolley and be careful when moving the TV – the potentially toxic materials in the TV can be released into your house if you drop it.

A Google search shows you a number of local recycling and donation centers that accept larger electronics. Best Buy, for example, picks up two TVs per house and day for $ 20 if you get a new set – tube TVs smaller than 32 inches, portable TVs and flat screens, LCD screens, LEDs and plasma less than 50 inches. Standalone pickups cost $ 100. You can also drop off your TV in the store – three TVs (with accessories) per household and day.

A big ol 'pile of smartphones.

Never throw old phones in the trash.

Josh Miller / CNET

Why can’t I just throw away my old devices and batteries?

If your electronics end up in a landfill, they do not just leave wires and plastic (which is a big problem in itself). If it is dumped or disposed of incorrectly, e-waste can harm the environment.

Most electronics contain toxic materials such as lead, flame retardants and chromium. These materials can cause damage to human kidneys, blood and nervous system, writes Ilene Lubell, president of the Mayer Metals Corporation, which recycles old electronics for companies, in a blog post.

When electronics are dumped or thrown away incorrectly, these toxins can leak to landfill, groundwater and evaporate into the atmosphere when heated, according to Lubell.

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Recycle your old technology


There are a number of environmentally friendly ways to dispose of your old electronics that could potentially help people in need or in substandard communities. It is important to note that the disposal protocol may differ from unit to unit.

Behind the scenes, units are recycled, renovated or redistributed. Sometimes they are broken down into parts or melted down to extract the rare earth materials. Apple Materials Restoration Laboratory in Texas uses robots to disassemble iPhones ($ 449 at Back Market) at a rate of 200 units per hour.

Go out and get recycled!

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