April 15, 2019

How to Safely Dispose of Old Gadgets and Electronics

Most tech devices, such as smartphones and computers, aren’t built to last forever. The average lifespan of an Apple iPhone, iPad, or Mac is about four years and three months. We’re in a perpetual cycle of increasingly relying on our devices and replacing them once we upgrade or the device conks out.

Most people, however, don’t know how to properly get rid of their devices. A 2017 United Nations report found that of the 44.7 million tons of e-waste disposed of in 2016, only 20% of it was discarded properly.

The improper disposal of electronics is especially harmful to the planet in that it often contains toxic substances, like mercury, lead, and cadmium. If you’re in the thick of spring cleaning or are just tired of old, unused gadgets piling up in your storage closet, there are options for properly disposing of your electronics.

Wipe Sensitive or Personal Data from Devices

Before clearing your home of any old electronics, be sure to remove any personal or sensitive data from the device with a hard factory reset or another approved method of destroying data. The last thing you want is for someone to go digging through your photos, login information, or financial documents. Even if you feel like the likelihood is low for someone to go through the trouble, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Before wiping data, remember to transfer any important files or information by backing up the device to the cloud or to a physical hard drive.

Once you’ve backed up your data, the method for wiping data varies depending on the particular device, but almost always requires more work than simply deleting a file. You can typically deal with devices such as phones and tablets that have onboard storage by fully resetting the operating system to its factory settings. Some devices, such as Android phones and Window computers, have other options to erase all data. For devices with flash or SSD storage, you may consider physically destroying the drive with a hammer or drill before disposal—just remember to wear safety goggles to protect your eyes!

3 Methods for Disposing of Electronic Devices

1) Recycle

Although electronics often contain toxic substances, they’re also made of recyclable materials like metals, plastic, and glass. Recycling centers and companies that specialize in safely recycling electronics are your best bet to ensure old devices are properly kept out of the landfill.

Some companies, such as Apple and Best Buy, having electronic recycling programs that sometimes result in trade-in deals, like store credit or discounts. If you’re planning on purchasing a new device, check with your local retailer to see if recycling your old device with them could help your wallet.

If you’d prefer to not return your device to the manufacturer or to the company where you originally made the purchased, find an electronics recycling center in or near your city. For Central Texas residents, check the Waste Wizard for your electronic recycling options.

2) Sell

Just because you’re done with your device doesn’t mean there isn’t someone out there who would enjoy it. The cost of iPhones these days is skyrocketing, and there are scores of people who might be open to purchasing an older device that still works. Selling your still-functioning devices is especially enticing to those who like to get the latest version of a phone, tablet, or computer.  

Even if your device is broken, there are repair shops who might be interested in purchasing your old or out-of-use gadgets for parts.

3) Donate

While donating your old devices isn’t as simple as dropping it off at a Goodwill, there are nonprofits and charities that gladly accept electronic donations. A couple of programs that accept your retired devices include the World Computer Exchange and eBay for Charity.

However you dispose of your old or unwanted electronics, there are proper ways of doing it! By choosing a method that keeps devices out of the landfill, you have the power to help preserve the environment and make a difference in your community.