If you are one of the lucky people toting around a shiny new smartphone, iPod or laptop, chances are there might be an old cell phone, batteries, cables and the like gathering dust somewhere in your home. It always seems easier to just stick those things in a drawer and forget about them, right? But as I recently showed Natalie Morales on the Today Show, one person's trash is another person's treasure. You can really do a world of good by taking the time to donate, trade in or sell gadgets you regard as passé.
Of course, you know it's never good to throw electronics in the garbage. The metals and plastic will just end up taking up space in a landfill when those materials can actually be recycled. Yet the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency told me that only 10% of cell phones, for example, are turned in for recycling or reuse each year. In fact, just this week, Yahoo! searches for "how to recycle cell phones" spiked 800% and "how to donate laptops" surged 600%. Clearly, now that it is January and people are resolving to get organized, e-cycling is on people's minds. So here is a primer to get you started:
1. Give 'em Away
Finding a recycling center or places to donate gadgets is a snap with Earth911.com's locator. Type in your zip code and up will pop a list of places to drop off your used cell phones, video games, laptops, etc. The program provides a list of which items each center will accept plus a phone number and address.
How will your hand-me-downs benefit others? Charities ranging from domestic violence shelters, senior homes, schools and international relief agencies work with a plethora of recycling/reuse programs to distribute phones and computers, among other things, to those in need.
Remember, though, before you drop off any equipment that has any personal data on it, make sure you take a few precautions:
For computers, you must wipe clean your hard drive. Deleting files will NOT protect your information if the computer falls into the hands of someone who knows how to retrieve the data. 1. Download or buy programs known as "commercial disk cleaning" software. GO to epa.gov and check out the e-cycling program (http://www.epa.gov/osw/conserve/materials/ecycling/), which lists a dozen sites where you can download reputable software to get the job done. 2. If you don't want to do it yourself, you can take it to a local computer store that refurbishes computers.
2. Trade In Gadgets
Apple probably has one of the best-known trade in programs. For iPods, just drop them off at an Apple store or send them to the company and get 10% off a new one. Other manufacturers offer similar incentives so check their websites. Also, coming soon… the ecoATM.This is a kiosk similar to those machines you see at the supermarket where you can trade in cans for coins. You put your old gadget into slot and it gives you cash back or a store credit. The average amount you can earn is about $9 according to the company.
Lots of retailers are also getting involved with e-cycling. Nextworth.com now partners with Target stores to offer money-back trade-ins or gift cards. And if you (or your partner or kids) have old video games piling up, go to GameStop.com to find out which ones you can trade in for a discount on new games. The company offers 7,000 titles that are eligible for the program. Best Buy, Radio Shack, Office Depot, to name a few, also offer drop off and trade in incentives. Check with your local store or on retailers' websites for details.
3. Sell It
There are a number of online bazaars where you can sell your old electronics. Before you start, though, look through your closets and drawers and make sure you have all of the accessories. Even manuals and the original packaging can get you a better price, especially if what you are selling is in very good condition. I recently got a new iPhone 4 and my iPhone 3G 16GB was a bit worn but still looking pretty good. With all the parts, I could get $94 from BuyMyTronics.com for the older model. But for an ancient looking Motorola Razor (still working), the company estimated $23 would be my pay out. Some other sites to consider include, Gazelle.com, SecureTradein.com, YouRenew.com, NextWorth.com. My colleagues at Yahoo Green also recently wrote up an excellent piece about cashing in on old cell phones with more detailed information about pricing. Check it out here http://green.yahoo.com/blog/ecogeek/1210/recycling-your-cell-phone-just-got-easier.html
While I was looking for props for the Today show segment, I spent some time scouring my apartment and you cannot believe how many relics I found. One final point, especially, if you are like me and you have bunches of cables, cords and accessories that don't seem to match, you can donate those, too. A lot of this stuff can really be re-used, salvaged for good use or in the case of batteries, safely disposed of if you bring it to the right place. If one of your 2011 resolutions is to get organized, clearing out old electronics is a worthy place to start.
Along the way, I found a first generation iPod, which I ended up donating to an exhibit on outdated technology at Columbia Journalism School last week. I recall exactly when I got it back in 2003! And I started to get nostalgic when I remembered that my husband and I brought the iPod loaded up with classical music and kids songs to the hospital when our twins were born so we could play music for them. Now if I could only find the speakers…Sniff sniff
What's the oldest gadget you have lying around your house? How did it make you feel to find it and to part with it?