How to throw away electronics: Here’s what to do with your old cellphone

Apparently across the United States there is a lot of trash talk when it comes to recycling electronics, laptops or cellphones.

New research shows 1 in 5 people admit to tossing the laptops and cellphones in the trash, and 45% of folks say they ditch their old electronics the same way.

What the stats say: According to ARRIS Composites, which describes itself as a global leader in manufacturing technology that’s focused on sustainability, there are a lot of factors impacting rates of recycling.

For example, U.S. residents are in love with the latest technology offered by a new gadget, with 40% saying they upgrade their electronics even if there is nothing wrong with their current device.

Gadget graveyards: Rather than being recycled, old electronics are ending up in trash cans, desk drawers, boxes tucked away in basements or in landfills.

“Americans have a lot of technology in their homes, whether it works or not. In fact, 80% of people have two or more working cellphones in their household. 78% of those surveyed said they have two computers or more in their homes, and 41% have two or more tablets,” according to ARRIS Composites’ report.

Broken electronics: The report notes those are just the working electronics. One out of 10 people in the survey tapping 1,000 residents said they have three broken or unused cellphones at home and nearly 1 in 5 have four or more broken cellphones. Nearly half (45%) admitted to having one or two computers that don’t work or aren’t used, and 20% said they have an unused tablet tucked away.

Even though 86% of Americans say sustainability is important to them, less than half have ever recycled electronics, according to the report.


  • Nearly 20% have put an old phone/computer in the trash.
  • 21% didn’t know electronics could be recycled.
  • One in 3 have never thought about electronics sustainability.

Information offered by indicates there are solutions to improve recycling. Some strategies have seen success. Others? Not so much.

The key for success: Information is power to make decisions, and being decisive leads to action.

ARRIS Composites said it found that recycling electronics isn’t always easy for residents, with 56% who say it’s difficult to figure out where to take the devices and 88% who say they would be more likely to recycle if it was easier.

In Utah, the Department of Environmental Quality provides a bevy of information on where there are recycling opportunities county by county on its website.

Not as easy as an aluminum can: The state agency says consumers have to make a conscious effort to properly dispose of or recycle their electronic waste. There is also a lack of understanding around the environmental impacts of electronics. 

“When electronics end up in the landfill, their toxic compounds, which include lead, mercury and cadmium, can leach into our soil and water supplies or contaminate our air. Consumers should first look into manufacturer buyback or recycling programs, or find a local retailer that recycles e-waste,” the department said.

In conjunction with Earth Day, each year the Utah Department of Commerce coordinates with the University of Utah for U Recycle Day to gather up old electrics, computers and more.

Zach Whitney, spokesman for the commerce agency, said the event this year hauled in 20,056 pounds of e-waste.

“It is completely fair to say donations are going up,” he said, adding that the hiatus during the coronavirus pandemic seemed to amplify participation this year with many people commenting they had anxiously been hoping for an easy way to dump their stuff.

“It was highly anticipated this year.”


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