I have several pairs of broken headphones, a non-functional PlayStation, and one cracked iPhone with trace amounts of blood on it. While rummaging through useless belongings in my apartment, I often wonder if my used electronics—cracked or not—can ever serve a greater purpose than sitting in my drawer or being thrown in the trash.
But when your old devices wind up in landfills, they can a lot more damage than you think. Generally, electronic waste contains toxic chemicals like mercury, lead or chromium; exposure to these chemicals can cause serious issues for our nervous and reproductive systems. (Children are especially vulnerable.) Worse, we produce some 50 million tons of electronic waste across the globe, endangering any community with a piling e-waste problem.
Scrub your information before giving up a device
Before you decide to resell or recycle your Blackberry (R.I.P.), there are a few things you should accomplish first. If you want to keep any old photos or files, you might want to back up them up to a hard drive, Google Drive, your iCloud account, or any other safe place, depending on the device.
As Consumer Reports writes, it’s super important you scrub the device, so its next owner doesn’t have access to your private files, too. On tablets, laptops or phones, you should complete a factory reset which will wipe most of your information. (Here’s our guide to resets on an iPhone or Android with a broken screen, in case your phone needs a serious fix.) In the instance of phones or cameras, you should also remove your SIM card which may contain details like your number or contacts, too—it’s a very simple process on any iPhone or Android.
A number of electronics stores will accept your devices for trade-in or recycling
If you’ve finally decided to part with your old device, luckily, you have a lot of options—your electronic trash is pretty valuable in the eyes of both recyclers and electronics stores.
Why might you choose to recycle instead of trading in your phone? Well, if your device isn’t in great condition (ie. broken to the point that it won’t even turn on) or totally invaluable (i.e. you’re trading-in a first generation iPhone), it might prove easier to recycle them, Freeman added.
Here are a few noteworthy recycling and trade-in programs you can take advantage of:
- Apple has a pretty extensive trade-in program for electronic devices of any brand. In exchange, you’ll receive an Apple Store gift card or credit toward a future purchase on an Apple product. (They really want your business after all.) If your device isn’t eligible for a credit, they’ll recycle it on your behalf and for free—don’t worry, they’ll ask for your consent before trashing your device.
- You can trade in a number of devices through Amazon; they offer free shipping with a prepaid label and appraise your item within two days.
- Best Buy will accept a number of electronic devices for trade-in and recycling. In exchange for recycling your device, they may offer a percentage off your next purchase of a similar device. (Here’s a list of their current promotions.) They’ll even pick up devices like televisions and other home appliances from your house, but for a small, additional fee.
- EcoATM will accept tablets, Mp3 players, and cell phones at any kiosk. The EcoATM will appraise your device based on price, model, market value, and will accept devices for recycling if they have no resale value.
- GameStop will accept gaming consoles, games, gaming accessories, and some phones or tablets for cash or credit. You can figure out the value of your products on GameStop’s website.
- Staples accepts most electronic devices for trade-in and recycling, with the exception of home appliances and televisions. Use their store locator so you can drop off a device at a participating Staples.
For rechargeable batteries, in particular, you can also use Call2Recycle’s search locator to find a drop off location near you. As CNET writes, if you want to make the most bang for your buck, you might have the best luck selling your device directly to a buyer, using a site like Craigslist or eBay.
You can donate your used devices
If you want to give your electronic devices another life, consider donating them to charities in need. Organizations like Cell Phone for Soldiers will accept phones to be refurbished and reused by active-duty military service members or veterans. Medic Mobile will also collect any phones or tablets and use them as part of healthcare programs overseas in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Phones should be in working condition to participate in either program.
As Popular Science wrote, make sure you keep a receipt if possible; you might be able to deduct the donation from your taxes down the line. And for any other device, do an online search for nearby organizations that might benefit from a used computer or tablet to help your local community.