BoomerTECH Adventures: Don’t toss it – donate, sell or recycle your old electronics

If you are like me you probably have a drawer (or more) full of old batteries, cables, phones, mice, and perhaps laptops and computers taking up valuable space just waiting for you to do something with the old electronic gear you no longer use.

I have at least eight laptops in a pile in my basement waiting for proper disposal. But before I decide how I will dispose of these old devices I need to wipe each computer clean so my data is erased. In an upcoming column, we’ll describe several ways to erase your data so you can safely dispose of your old computers, phones, and tablets.

Did you know that electronic goods including computers and phones are the world’s fastest-growing trash problem? We’ve all seen pictures of massive amounts of discarded gear. Just last week, I participated in a hazardous materials recycling day for my small town. The amount of discarded computers, keyboards, TVs, and related gear was astounding.

The U.S. alone dumps between 300 million and 400 million electronic items per year, and less than 20% of that e-waste is recycled. E-waste represents 2% of America’s trash in landfills, but it equals 70% of overall toxic waste.

Electronics contain toxic materials including mercury, lead, zinc, nickel, barium, cadmium, and chromium. Once dumped, these toxic chemicals can seep into groundwater and if burned pollutes the atmosphere. Either way, we can be harmed by these toxins from discarded electronics.

Fortunately, we have several options for disposing of old electronics — donate, sell, or recycle (responsibly). Let’s look at each of these options and see how each could work for you.

Donate: If your old phone or computer is still working think seriously about passing it along to someone else, a family member, friend, or anyone who could use it. My wife and I routinely pass our old phones to a son and daughter-in-law because they don’t need the latest and brightest (as we do!). They have used our pass-along phones for at least three years or until we upgrade and pass the next set to them. Or give your old phone to a tween as their first phone or an older family member as an upgrade to their flip phone.

Additionally, many charities partner with cell phone refurbishing companies and recyclers as a way of generating funds while keeping phones out of landfills. Organizations such as Cell Phones for Soldiers, Eco-Cell, and Recycling for Charities are only three of many. A little research for articles that describe how to deal with donating old electronics is a good place for you to begin.

Sell: Don’t forget that companies like Apple and Amazon will buy back devices like computers, tablets, and phones in good working condition. Apple has an easy-to-use online process for you to see how much your device is worth. BestBuy has a similar buy-back program. Companies like Verizon, AT&T, and others will accept trade-ins on new purchases.

Recycle: Most cell phone providers have drop-off bins or mail-in programs to make recycling your old phone easy. Many communities offer recycling days once each year like the one mentioned earlier. There are also local companies in most towns and cities that recycle electronics for a fee. A little homework on your part will give you a plethora of options for recycling your old electronics.

No matter if you sell, donate, or recycle your old devices, remember to look for our upcoming article on how to prepare your electronics for disposal. Good luck cleaning out all the stuff that you no longer need or want. It will take some work but disposing of your gear in a responsible manner is the way to go. Happy cleaning!

BoomerTECH Adventures ( provides expert guidance and resources to help Boomers and older adults develop competence and confidence using their Apple devices. Boomers themselves, BoomerTECH Adventures rely on their skills as educators to create experiences that meet individual needs through videos, Zoom presentations, tech tips, and timely blog posts.

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