I’m excited to kick off the year by finding some easy, effective ways to recycle or donate those old tech gadgets that we all have lying around. Not just for you, but for me too!
I know not to chuck my trusty old iPhone into the trash after upgrading to a newer model (let alone batteries, yikes!) but I’m often stuck with what to do with it, as well as what to do with all the other outdated tablets, phones, cords, computer monitors, outmoded gaming systems, even old MP3 players.
And did I mention all those cords?
Here’s a list of excellent options for donating, recycling, or selling your old tech; any of them is better than letting it pile up in a landfills or spending another year seeing that stuff take up space in a drawer or closet, don’t you think?
Related: Tackle these 10 simple tech to-dos to start the year safer, cleaner, and more organized
5 ways to donate, recycle, or sell your old tech
Important Note: of course, before you donate items like phones and tablets, don’t forget to back up any photos or data if you need, and wipe your device by restoring it to factory settings. Then, check into the best ways to recycle, return, donate, or sell your tech based on the suggestions here.
1. Check into your local tech recycling program
The easiest route to recycling your old tech may be right in your own backyard. Many cities and counties have their own initiatives for residents and businesses, like this electronics recycling program in New York City or this E-Waste Program in San Francisco. Options may even include dropping them off at a local Goodwill storefront, so it’s even easier.
My small suburban town does not offer nearly as comprehensive a program, but does hold an annual Hazardous Waste Day event which includes the acceptance of most tech for recycling.
Be sure to pay attention to the list of accepted items and potential fees.There may be a nominal charge to recycle some items, like say an old computer monitor; but for me, not having to stare at that thing in the basement another year is worth the fee.
2. Try a national tech recycling program
If your community doesn’t have a local program, and you are specifically looking for an easy way to dispose of used batteries and cell phones, please check out the leading recycling program, Call 2 Recycle. Drop-off locations are nationwide (there are 16 locations within 10 miles of my own Massachusetts address), or visit their store to purchase a mail back kit, which you can use to send 20-50 pounds of mixed batteries and cell phones.
3. Return your old tech to the manufacturer or retailer
The EPA’s Electronics Donation and Recycling page provides a comprehensive list of manufacturers and retailers who accept some electronics and tech for recycling.
Companies like HP, Xerox, Sprint, Staples, Best Buy all have recycling programs to help keep unused tech out of landfills and disposed of properly.
For instance, Best Buy’s robust tech recycling program accepts a huge range of items, from laptops to cell phones, printers and even old vacuum cleaners. However you can only recycle up to three items per day for free. So review their comprehensive list of accepted items, and consider whether to spread out your trips.
4. Donate your old tech to one of these excellent causes
An excellent way to give your unwanted tech new life it to donate it. Liz shared some of these in her recent post on New Year’s tech to-dos, but I wanted to provide some more specifics for you.
Here are a few outstanding organizations that will accept items that you may not even realize could be donated, and a little more about how they operate.
Of course, be sure to double check their sites, especially during Covid, to see if any protocols or options like at-home pickup are still available.
To support survivors of domestic abuse:
National Coalition Against Domestic Violence tech donation
Image: @NCADV on Instagram
The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence has a partnership with Cellular Recycler, using your donated electronics to raise funds for the many programs that are so essential to helping survivors of domestic violence. If you have there or more items to donate, shipping is even free — and super easy to do.
Just gather up your no-longer-needed cell phones, MP3 players, digital cameras, or video game systems, and Cellular Recycler will resell what they can to earn money for NCADV.
They’ll also accept chargers, cords, GPS systems, and phone cases, but please note these don’t count toward the free shipping quota.
This page (PDF) gives you a sense of what each item is worth; it really helps you see the value of donating your tech to a worthy organization to begin with.
To support our deployed troops:
Cell Phones for Soldiers tech donation
It’s easy to support members of our military by donating your old tech, and Cell Phones for Soldiers will happily accept your used — even broken — cell phones and tablets if you are near one of their 3,000+ drop-off locations.
Alternatively, ship your donated electronics direct to their headquarters and with 10 or more devices, they’ll cover the cost of shipping. (Tip: Gather them up from friends and neighbors and send them all in one package.)
They will wipe those phones or tablets clean and resell them — though we always recommend wiping your own devices clean (factory reset) before you donate, just in case. The sales from those items help them purchase prepaid international calling cards for our troops overseas. So your 2011 iPhone could potentially mean an overseas son or daughter reaching out and talk to their mom — or a parent talking to their young kids.
Sniff, sign me up.
To support global literacy:
World Computer Exchange tech donation
Photo: World Computer Exchange
Did you get a new laptop for the holidays and have no need for your old one? Consider donating it to World Computer Exchange, which helps get technology into classrooms around the globe.
Because these computers will be used in schools, WCE maintains a pretty specific list of the items they accept and all devices must be in good working order. But, your dusty old laptop could live out the rest of its life in a new country, to help young people gain valuable digital literacy skills — which is a lot better new location for that laptop than in your hall closet.
To create more opportunity and equity by eliminating the digital divide:
Human I-T tech donation
With so much information moving online, from banking to job applications to education (as we parents all well know), let alone basic email, it can be a real liability not having access to technology and Internet access. So I love that Human I-T’s mission is to make sure all Americans have access to the tech and tech skills that so many of us take for granted.
If you don’t have an Internet-connected device of your own, it’s a huge barrier to applying to jobs or even receiving an urgent email from your child’s school.
The list of accepted donated tech (PDF) from Human I-T is extensive and includes computer monitors, keyboards, printers, cell phones, MP3 players, gaming systems — and much, much more. Including laminating machines, surge protectors, and those old pagers and PDAs– looking at you, early Blackberry users! And yes, they also accept donations of cables and cords of all kinds.
Just fill out their individual donation form, and someone will contact you as to where to send your donation.
To support America’s vets:
Vietnam Veterans of America donation program
Photo: Vietnam Veterans of America
Liz’s family has long donated all kinds of items to the Vietnam Veterans of America, because they do an outstanding job supporting our vets with so many essential needs from financial advice and job placement, to help with homelessness, substance abuse and PTSD.
Donating is incredibly easy if you’re in one of the 23 US states where they operate. You can donate your old tech either by bringing your items to a drop-off location near you, or by arranging for a pickup arranging for a pickup online — when they arrive, they can load up boxes right from your driveway or front door, or from your lobby if you’re in an apartment building.
Accepted tech donations include gaming systems, computers and laptops, monitors (but not televisions), DVD players, cameras, stereos and audio equipment, and small kitchen appliances. You can find a good list on their other site, PickUpPlease.org.
Best of all, they also accept all kinds of other non-tech items, especially clothing, so it’s a good way to clean up more than just your tech drawers while doing a lot of good.
5. Get paid for your old tech
For some of us, the ease (and giving back) of donating old tech is worth saving some time. But if you’d like to pick up some extra cash, and have a little time, there are quite a few services that will buy back, and donate or recycle your old gadgets.
We first wrote up about EcoATM back in 2013, and since then, they’ve grown to offer 5,000 kiosks in malls and supermarkets around the US. It’s just as it sounds — place your charged device in the machine, find its value, then get cash on the spot. Even if it’s not worth much, it will be recycled. You can also use their iOS app or Android app to get a sense of the offer price before heading out, and locking it in.
Other respected services for reselling or trading in…well, nearly every tech item you may want to donate, include services like:
Take a peek and compare offers to see which is right for you. You’ll not only help keep all those old electronics out of landfills, you’ll get a little cash to put towards new tech. Or, something entirely electronic-free. Imagine that!
Top photo by Rayson Tan on Unplash