How to Safely Recycle Electronics, Battieries, and E-waste

How to Safely Recycle Electronics, Batteries, and Other E-Waste


With technological advances coming as fast as they are, we’ll always have new gadgets and products to replace those that have become obsolete. What should be done with those old gadgets? Here, you’ll learn more about recycling old computers, batteries, and other electronics.

Where Does E-Waste Go?

All e-waste is composed of toxic chemicals such as cadmium, beryllium, lead, flame retardants, and mercury. Improper disposal of devices and gadgets increases the chances of these chemicals getting into the air, soil, and water supplies.

When electronic waste is dumped into a landfill, those harmful elements tend to leach into the water and the soil. The contaminated water then reaches the water table, introducing those chemicals into the environment.

Is Recycling Always Safe?

Despite its eco-friendly tone, recycling sometimes leads to the dumping of e-waste into overseas landfills. Worse yet, some recyclers ship electronic waste into third-world countries, disguising it as a “donation”. Countries used as e-waste dumping grounds often have high cyber-crime rates as salvaged computer components give criminals access to users’ sensitive information. In the sections below, you’ll find a few safe waste disposal techniques and some suggestions on how to reuse electronics.

Give Old Gadgets to a Certified Recycler

The easiest and safest way to dispose of e-waste is to find a certified recycler. Choose a company that’s certified by the Basel Action Network (BAN). The BAN is a non-profit organization composed of recycling companies that are focused on responsible and safe disposal methods. All members must sign responsibility pledges and display them prominently. By working with a certified e-waste recycling company, you won’t have to worry about losing your private data or polluting the world. Take these precautions before recycling or donating your old devices:

  • Consider upgrading your computer instead of replacing it
  • Remove your personal information before discarding your device
  • Remove the batteries from these devices before donating them

Sell it Off

As the saying goes, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. This adage is applicable when getting rid of your old phones, laptops, and other devices. Websites such as eBay and Craigslist are great ways to get rid of old tech. Some old electronics, such as Nintendo games, are highly collectible. In many places, electronic shops may buy old radios, computers, and the like.

Donating Your Old Devices

If you have a box of old devices collecting dust in a closet, they may be useful in other cases. For instance, an old laptop may give a struggling student the boost they need to get through school. A lot of organizations and businesses offer electronic donation programs which you can choose from. Before donating your old gadgets though, consider the answers to these two questions:

  • Is it fully functional?
  • Does the device store any of my sensitive information?

Visit a Civic Institution

Another good way to give old electronics a new lease on life is to give them to a civic institution. Ask local schools, libraries, and government offices about recycling programs. Many of these entities have designated times and places for eco-friendly citizens to drop off e-waste items.

Take Your E-Waste to an Electronics Retailer’s Drop-Off Point

Many of today’s electronics retailers have exchange policies where they take your old items when you upgrade, and in some instances, they even offer discounts on these new purchases. Some recycling companies have e-waste drop-off programs where they collect tablets, cell phones, and other devices for disposal. If you can’t find one of these drop-off points, ask a local electronics shop where they’re located.

Steps to Take Before Recycling an Electronic Device

Once you’ve chosen an e-waste recycling method, you’ll want to delete or back up your important data. After all, the device will be out of your hands, and you shouldn’t give the recipient access to your private and personal information. Though some organizations offer to wipe these cast-off devices, it’s best to do the job yourself so your information doesn’t get into the wrong hands.

Do a Data Backup

Be sure all your information, pictures, and documents are backed up onto an external hard drive or in the cloud. It may help to transfer this information over to your new device before deleting it from the old one. With hard drive cloning software, you’ll easily be able to tell if you have all the information you need.

Remove Attached Storage Drives

This step might seem obvious, but it’s crucial to ensure that your old devices are stripped of their storage before they’re donated. DVD drives, SD-card readers, USB ports, and floppy drives should all be taken out before recycling.

If you’re donating a phone, an MP3 player, or a digital camera, there may be a SIM card or SD card that stores your data. In most cases, these are found next to a device’s battery. To protect your privacy and your information, remove them before donating or recycling your devices.

Wipe Away Your Data

Once you’ve removed the device’s external memory, it’s time to remove its internal data. Returning a device to its factory-fresh settings should remove all stored information, from photos to passwords. For computers, there’s disk-cleaning software to consider. However, a factory reset usually does the job.

Try Buying Less

Now that you’ve learned how to safely recycle e-waste, it’s time to learn how to prevent it. Most e-waste is created when we buy things we don’t need. Before making a purchase, ask yourself if you really need another electronic item or gadget.

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Keep Your Head in the Cloud

There’s no need to buy a heavy-duty machine or server for personal and work storage. Cloud services such as Dropbox and Google Drive are great for backups and syncing data across devices, and you won’t have to invest in additional equipment.

Educate Yourself

Most of today’s electronic gadgets are full of toxic materials, so it’s important to dispose of them properly. Take the time to learn about proper disposal techniques and pass this information along to family and friends. With a little education, we can all become more mindful of the e-waste we create.


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