I recently upgraded my phone and got a new laptop for the start of the year. Usually, I give my old phones and electronics away to my little brother, but he just got a new phone for his birthday. I don’t want to throw them away, but I don’t know anyone who can use them.

How can I recycle these electronics?

Thank you for taking the time to think about how you’ll dispose of your electronics. Many people simply toss their old devices into the trash where they become electronic waste. An estimated 44.7 million tons of e-waste was disposed in 2016, and less than a quarter of that waste was disposed of properly.

Electronics contain toxic substances, including mercury, lead and cadmium, so they should be carefully disposed of. In fact, many states have laws that require people to recycle their old electronics.

Before you decide how to dispose of your phone and laptop, take the time to erase any and all personal information. This means going beyond simply deleting the files on your devices. Consumer Reports offers a helpful guide on how to remove your personal data from your devices.

Make sure that you back up your data before deleting your files, and be sure to cancel any subscriptions associated with the device.

Once your devices have been wiped clean, you can start thinking about how you want to dispose of them. 

The first option is to take your devices to a recycler. Many local communities and non-profit organizations have programs to help recycle old electronic devices. Many cities also have collection days for electronics. Electronics retailers, like Best Buy, will also take your devices.

Another option is to sell your devices to an online buyer. These companies will offer you cash for your old electronics, and they’ll usually pay to have the device shipped to them. Once they receive the device, you get paid.  

Some big retailers offer a similar service, like Target’s Trade-In program or Apple’s Recycling Program.

Of course, you also have the option of skipping the middle man and selling your device on eBay, Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace. This will require extra work on your part, but you may make more money by selling your devices directly to buyers.

If you want to help someone in need, you can donate your devices to a charity or non-profit – as long as the device is still in good working condition. Do some research to find local organizations in your area. Some bigger organizations may allow you to mail your devices to them. Be sure to get a receipt so that you can deduct your donation on your next tax return. 

You may also want to find out if there’s a recycling program on campus. If so, this may be the simplest and most convenient way to dispose of your devices. Check the local library to see if there’s a waste collection bin. Make sure that you understand the rules of the program before you hand over your devices. They may take your mobile phone, but there’s a chance that they may not accept your laptop. 

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