Computers have become a major part of our daily routine in the U.S. From the buzz of our alarm clock to the sleep timer on our television, we come in contact with dozens, maybe even hundreds, of electronic products every day. Cell phones, laptops, keyboards, mice, printers, telephones, VCRs, DVD players, game consoles, etc. There seems to be no end to the list. Many of us buy the new model as it comes out or simply replace our broken devices as needed. What then? What do we do with the old one?
Disposing of old and obsolete electronic products (at least the ones that didn’t sell on eBay or that garage sale you had) is a serious, often over-looked, issue in the U.S. and the problem is growing exponentially. Our country throws out about 400 million units per year and worldwide, about 4,000 tons of “e-waste” is discarded every hour. Many of these devices contain toxic, harmful chemicals and materials that can cause major damage to our environment. So the question is “how can I properly discard my old electronics legally and easily?”
In researching this subject, I found it interesting that I couldn’t locate federal or state law prohibiting the disposal of electronic items for standard curb-side trash pickup. While I am sure it exists, it wasn’t easily accessible or even described in several Google searches I performed. Instead, I located numerous state and city-funded programs that provide free and convenient recycling for old computer equipment as well as other commonly used electronic devices. While I am sure anyone can locate their state specific programs easily, I have provided a few options below, including some for Texas residents, as an example of what is possible.
OPTIONS FOR e-WASTE DISPOSAL
First and foremost, you should see if you can recover some cold, hard cash for the electronic item that you are done using. Online auction sites, forums, craig’s list, and even local garage sales can help you cover the purchase of your next gadget. While it may seem like a pain to handle these transactions, here are a few things to think about:
- A Nintendo game cartridge (produced in 1987) recently sold for $41,300 at auction. The owner was going to simply donate the item before he heard of other success stories for similar items.
- AC adapters and charges often sell for $10 or more on eBay. I have paid as much as $30 + shipping for a cable that I needed for an older device.
- Sega Genesis Portable systems still sell for over $50 on eBay. This system came out over 15 years ago and still holds some real value.
One man’s trash is another’s treasure. Donating to Goodwill or any other charity can benefit others and, come tax time, you can write off the value of these items. While using TurboTax to do my taxes this year, I was provided with an estimating tool that provided values for donated items. My car-load of items was worth almost $300 (according to TurboTax). You would be pleasantly surprised at the values they gave many common items.
If you don’t want to mess with eBay or itemizing your deductions on next year’s tax return, look for a drop-off location or drive in your area. Some state and city programs help with the Who, What, When and Where issues that many of us don’t want to deal with
- The Texas Take Back program provides a wealth of information on the programs provided by manufacturers and has links to information on TV, computer and cell phone recycling. For instance, did you know that every FedEx Kinko’s location accepts cell phones and PDAs for free recycling?
- Best Buy locations provide recycling kiosks for inkjet cartridges, rechargeable batteries, cell phones and more. They also have a Tech Trade-In program that offers gift cards in exchange for gently used electronics. TV and appliance pickup is available, for a fee.
- The Houston e-Cycle drive is going on tomorrow April 16th, 2010 and Houston residents can can recycle up to 5 items from an approved list at the ABC-13 studios on Bissonnet.
BEFORE YOU DONATE or DROP-OFF
Before you get rid of any computers, laptops, iPods, GPS units, cell phones or anything else with an internal memory, be sure to “wipe” the data. You don’t want personal information falling into the wrong hands and putting you at risk for your good deed. A quick Google search can provide instructions for individual devices, but for computer hard drives, we have some specific instructions from one of our previous articles: