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Recycle your old tech gear

Lisa Schmeiser | April 23, 2013
What to do with your old tech gear when it no longer works? Recycle it. We show you how and where to be responsible with outdated stuff.

In springtime, people's fancies may turn to love, but their to-do list turns to cleaning. Make this the year that you finally recycle all the ancient MP3 players, toner cartridges, ethernet cables, and bulky monitors out of the closets, garages, and spare rooms where they've been lurking. Your home will feel more modern, and you'll be doing your part to boost the 27 percent electronics recycling rate in the U.S.--just in time for another spring constant, Earth Day.ll"

Half of all electronic waste is linked to consumer electronics.

Why recycle at all?

Sure, it would be easier just to dump all your old, unwanted electronic stuff in the trash. However, old computers and their related peripherals contain a lot of heavy metals--lead, cadmium, mercury--that are bad for people's health when they get into the soil and water. In addition, when old electronics hit the trash heap, they're out of a recycling stream that can cut the energy costs for production of future electronics.

But if the environmental concerns don't grab you, consider the business benefits to recycling electronics: According to the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, compared to disposal, computer reuse created 296 jobs per every 10,000 tons of material disposed of each year. The Electronics TakeBack Coalition estimates that the U.S. generates approximately 1.7 million tons of electronic waste annually--so imagine the job potential that's still there. And if those arguments don't sway you, maybe the long arm of the law can: It's illegal in 25 U.S. states to simply trash your old electronics.

Now, don't you want to avoid breaking the law? Don't you also want to employ people and keep the planet clean by recycling your old stuff? Of course you do, so let's get started.

Before you get rid of any of your electronics

The first step on your recycling journey: Make sure that none of your personal data will be leaving the house along with your soon-to-be-discarded electronics. As a bare minimum, make sure you do the following:

Don't forget the little things like deauthorizing iTunes-running computers, for example.

If you're using Apple's iTunes to manage your digital music and video, be sure you deauthorize any device you're recycling. "But that computer is dead" is no excuse: Apple expects you to simply deauthorize all your devices via the iTunes app, then reauthorize the ones that are still alive (and hanging around after the purge). Note that the "deauthorize all" option works only once a year, so use it wisely.

If you're recycling a smartphone, do a complete reset of your phone to wipe out its data and restore it to its factory settings. Before you do this, however, make sure that you've got your data backed up someplace else, and that you've double-checked the manufacturer's instructions on how to reset your phone.


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