With Moore’s law in full swing, it seems like every day brings the release of new technology. This is great for those of us who love to play with the latest gadgets, but it also means that e-waste is increasing at an exponential rate as we toss old technology into the dump.
This can lead to a variety of health and environmental concerns, as nasty chemicals like lead, cadmium, mercury, brominated flame retardants and hexavalentchromium compounds leak into the ground and water supply. There are a number of ways to avoid such a fate, as long as we think strategically about what to do with our old devices before we chuck them into the bin.
Re-Sells and Buy Backs
If you’re going to splurge on a new device, why not recoup some of the costs of the old one? Re-sell options are available on a number of sites, including Amazon and eBay. Just write a description of the device, upload good photos and let the bidding and buying begin.
Buy back and trade-in programs won’t be as profitable as selling items directly, but they’re also a good option for people who don’t have the time or desire to track sales, answer potential buyer questions and monitor bids. eBay Instant, Gazelle, Nextworth, BuyMyTronics, uSell and Trade2Save are just a few companies that will take your used laptops, digital cameras and other digital devices.
Donate Your Technology
While your technology might be too outdated or slow for your purposes, there are plenty of people both abroad and at home who can use what you no longer need. Donate your cell phone to a non-profit like Hope Phones, which gives phones to public health professionals in developing countries, or Cell Phones for Soldiers, which enables returning soldiers to stay in touch with family and friends as they readjust to life at home.
There are also major retailers like Staples who take back products or non-profit organizations that work to recycle specific goods, such as Call2Recycle, which specializes in batteries. These options make sure the items are properly recycled and broken down to create new products.
Similarly, local schools are always in need of computers, as are libraries and other public departments. Contact potential recipients ahead of time to ensure what you have meets their needs, or search through recipient databases for your region at eCycling Central.
If you can’t find any takers, sell instead to a refurbisher, who will salvage useful bits for new devices. And, of course, make sure to wipe any stored data, either with professional help or with disk cleaning software.
Recycling can also be a good option, but make sure you research companies first, as many say they’re recycling when they’re really shipping e-waste overseas to the detriment of local people. There are a number of fantastic websites out there to help you sort through the mass, including this comprehensive ratings list from the environmental site, e-Stewards.
Give outdated technology new life by getting creative and crafty. Take, for instance, this clock made from hard drive platters and floppy disks, or this one made from a computer circuit board. Get inventive, but make sure to avoid batteries and screens, as they may contain cadmium, lead and mercury.
There are many different ways you can handle old technology, just as long as you think outside of the trash can. So choose your route, do your research, and do a little kindness to the earth as you upgrade to that super cool new gadget.