Dispose of Outdated Electronics the Green Way

There’s one downside to buying the state-of-the-art version of any electronic device: it doesn’t stay state-of-the-art for long. Technology is developing at breakneck pace, leaving a trail of outdated electronics in its wake.

As long as you’re still using and enjoying your old record turntable or Atari 2600, there’s no reason not to hang on to them. But when a device has been completely replaced by something newer and better, the best thing you can do is to give it a second life -- either with a new owner or as tomorrow’s recycled material.

Another Man’s Treasure

Just because a device is useless to you doesn’t mean there isn’t someone out there who would love to have it. If you have electronics that are out-of-date but still fully functional, consider selling or donating them. 

Online message boards like craigslist make it easy to sell electronics cheaply or just give them away to a good home, and resale shops like Goodwill will almost always accept old devices in good working condition. Churches, schools and other organizations that count on donations may also be interested, so ask around in your community.

But sometimes, electronics just get a little too beat-up over the years -- and some may just be too outdated to attract any interest at all. And in those cases, it’s time for a trip to the recycling center.

Everything Old is New Again

Just like your old newspapers and aluminum cans, your electronic devices can be broken down and recycled to provide raw materials for all sorts of things. But unlike the trash you mix together in your curbside recycling bin, electronics must be recycled with care.

There are a couple reasons for this. One is that many electronics contain hazardous materials -- for instance, older TVs and monitors contain cathode ray tubes that may produce radiation and toxic gases -- and these must be carefully disposed of in accordance with the law.

Another reason is that recycling centers will often break down electronics into their component parts, which are then separated by hand for recycling. Not all recycling centers do it this way -- some use large machinery to completely shred electronic devices.

Because of these special considerations, electronics must usually be dropped off at special recycling locations. Sometimes this is at the recycling center itself, while other times it may be at a collection point in a local store, library or community center.

To find electronics recycling centers in your area, use the Consumer Technology Association’s Greener Gadgets website.

Protect Your Data

Electronics recycling centers will typically take your devices as-is, but when it comes to computers, there’s an important step you’ll want to complete first: destroy the hard drive.

There are free programs you can use to wipe an old computer’s hard drive completely clean, but even those won’t hide all of your data from a capable and determined computer whiz. If you want to be sure the data on an old hard drive is unrecoverable, you must physically destroy it.

This entails opening the computer, removing the hard drive and damaging it to the point where it will never work again. This can be done by smashing it with a hammer, driving nails through it or even cutting it in half. Be sure to exercise extreme caution when doling out this destruction.

Donating or recycling old devices is the best way to show them love one last time. And the best way to appreciate your brand new devices is to safeguard them with whole-home surge protection -- if your home’s not covered for this, reach out to your licensed, local electricians.

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