Celebrate Earth Day by donating your old technology or getting rid of it in a way that's safe for the environment.Body:
We love our computers and electronics. That is, until they stop working. Then these computers and their peripherals, from printers to monitors, not to mention your handhelds, batteries, and accessories, often become digital garbage.
These things aren't made to last after all. (No computer or phone maker is going to mind if you buy an upgrade every year or two.) Consequently, all of this junk ends up in the back of your closet or stored in your garage, collecting dust, because you aren't sure what to do with the stuff. The best thing to do with this growing accumulation of old electronic equipment is to either donate or recycle it.
Donate your old computers and phones whenever you can to groups that will fix and clean them up and then put them back to good use. Even the oldest computer, something you consider the most obsolete of digital dinosaurs, can probably be used by someone.
There are times, though, when a device is too far gone and there's nothing else that can be done to bring it back to life again. Even a charity doesn't want your unusable junk. That junk—called e-waste—is potentially dangerous. Electronics are filled with "heavy metals" (read: toxic metals) and carcinogenic chemicals that are fine when you're using them, but not so much when sitting in a landfill or, worse, when people try to recycle them incorrectly. Thousands of tons of e-waste is shipped overseas yearly to countries like China and India where it gets dumped and maybe burned, which puts mercury and lead into the air.
So on this 41st Earth Day, we want to point out the places you can take your old or even dead electronics, so they can end up either being used by someone in need or safely recycled.
The Best Places to Recycle Tech
This program is run by the Basel Action Network (BAN), a non-profit dedicated to confronting environmental injustice caused by toxic chemicals worldwide. BAN helped expose the atrocious things happening in Asia and Africa caused by the so-called "recycling" of e-waste exported there. With help from some corporations and citizens, it created e-Stewards to address what it says the government doesn't: "prevent the toxic materials in electronics from continuing to cause long term harm to human health and the environment." BAN and its group of e-Stewards Recyclers even recently called on the United States to halt all export of e-waste generated by the federal government alone; BAN says the feds buy around 500,000 new computers a year, making it "the largest source of electronic waste in the world." Washington should lead by example. By checking out the list of e-Stewards Recyclers on the site, you can be reassured that you are taking your digital detritus to someone you can absolutely trust to recycle it in the safest way possible.
The nationwide electronics retailer has, arguably, the best recycling program going. Its Web site details what exactly it'll take (small tube TVs, Bluetooth headsets, software, UPS battery backups, to name a few) and what it won't (projection TVs, rooftop dish antennas, hard drives, old cassettes and 8-tracks, go figure.) Small items such as ink/toner, old cables, and batteries can go in recycling kiosks right by the door.
The list of items it'll take is tremendously long, and even if it won't take it in store, it might pick it up. That goes for several large kitchen appliances, plus old CRT televisions over 32-inches in size. Check the listing for your state, however, as what Best Buy accepts could differ depending on local laws.
What's the catch? Not much. You can take in up to 3 items per day. It doesn't matter if you bought it there or not. It's mostly free: if you bring in a small tube TV or CRT monitor, they charge you $10 to take it... then turn right around and give you a $10 Best Buy gift card. Again, state rules can apply.
Even smarter: check Best Buy's Trade-In calculator to see if what you think is junk could be used to offset buying some new toys.
Bring in as many as 10 ink/toner cartridges per month and you get $2 for each in Staple Rewards to spend. Staples will also take any other old office electronics, like computers, monitors, and printers, for $10 per large piece of equipment. If the electronics are smaller, such as input devices, phones or cameras, the recycling is free. For items with the Dell brand, all recycling is free. Staples does not take TVs or big copiers.
Staples also offers a service called EasyTech to move data from an old computer you want to get rid off to a new PC. Plus, it sells a line of Sustainable Earth products, such as remanufactured toner cartridges.
At Office Depot, you can buy what it calls a Tech Recycling Box. You can put as much electronic junk in one of these boxes as you want, as long as it will close. Then bring the box back to the store unsealed and drop it off for inspection. Office Depot will ship it off to waste management partners to do the rest. It promises to break the devices down to components of glass, plastic, copper and aluminum to reuse. The boxes come in different sizes and costs: small (8x15x18 inches) is $5, medium (20x16x16 inches) is $10, and large (24x18x18 inches) is $15. Check out its FAQ PDF of items it accepts and items doesn't (which includes such obvious items as devices covered in or leaking liquid and anything radioactive).
Mobile phones, PDAs, batteries, and ink/toner cartridges can be dropped off for free with any sales associate, however. Or if you go to OfficeDepot.com, you can buy boxes—for the price of $0.00, including delivery to your home—to directly recycle laser toner and inkjet cartridges by mail.
It's no surprise that the company that was on site at MacWorld to take old iPhones when Verizon Wireless announced it would sell the current iPhone 4 is in the market to get your old iProducts. E-Cycle will buy iPhones and iPads from individuals or organization. Just go to its site, tell it what kind of device you have, and it'll generate a quote. It'll even take broken devices. You simply mail it in a pre-paid box E-Cycle provides, and then payment shows up in the mail. I got a quote of $145 for a working condition first generation iPad with Wi-Fi and 16GB memory; $315 for an iPhone 4 with 16GB, which is more than most people pay for them brand new (with a contract). E-Cycle will take other phones if you ask, but won't pay you for them.
Call2Recycle is a non-profit program specifically for collecting and safely disposing of rechargeable batteries. Visit the site and enter your zip code and it will display any number of retailers that have a Call2Recycle drop off location. Partners include Lowes, Home Depot, RadioShack, Sears, and Best Buy, to name a few. This goes for not just your electronics, but all those rechargeable batteries on your tools and flashlights as well—none of them are doing us any favors in the landfill. Plus, it's free. Precious metals are recovered from the dead batteries and turned into useful stuff. For example, the kitchen flatware you eat with may once have been powering your drill or phone.
Recycle with Computer Manufacturers and Mobile Carriers
Computer Manufacturers Most will take their own stuff, but how you go about it depends on the maker. You can find a quick chart on the Environmental Protection Agency's Plug-In to eCycling site.
Every one of the four major mobile phone service providers will take cell phones back for recycling, either to dispose of safely or, better yet, to refurbish for special use as 911 emergency phones for those in need, such as abuse victims or active duty military soldiers. Just remember to erase the data from your phone before you drop it off. If it's from AT&T or T-Mobile, take out the phone's SIM card, too. All of the carriers' efforts are also part of the EPA Plug-In to eCycling campaign.
AT&T Reuse & Recycle
Takes any phone, plus batteries and accessories. Just drop them at the nearest AT&T store.
Sprint offers to buy-back some phones from existing customers and provides credit toward a new one, but if that doesn't work, it will take any phones, batteries, and accessories you want to drop off or send in by creating a pre-printed, postage-paid shipping label.
T-Mobile's Handset Recycling Program
Again, T-Mobile will take any carrier's phone and accessories—it's a good idea to also donate the charger—either in the store or by mail with a pre-printed label with postage already paid.
HopeLine from Verizon
Specifically targeted to get recycled phones to victims of domestic violence, Verizon's program is no different for you, the donate—you can drop phones, batteries, and accessories at the stores around the country or use the pre-paid shipping label. Start your own HopeLine Phone Drive to get involved.