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Collection of smartphones and tablets laying in a grid pattern

Give e-waste new life

Old devices don’t have to add to the clutter. Here are some options for getting the most out of those electronics.

Today’s junk drawers are stuffed with last year’s smartphones and tablets along with webs of tangled cords. But there’s a dark side to storing electronics beyond taking up space. Lithium-ion batteries have started house fires, for example. Tossing these devices isn’t an option because their chemicals contaminate waterways and soil. According to the United Nations’ E-Waste Monitor, only 17% of global hazardous electronic-waste (e-waste) was collected and recycled, meaning high-value metals and other recoverable materials – conservatively valued at $57 billion – were quite literally burned or dumped. We’ve compiled a few ways to help you clear space and your conscience.

Illustration of global e-waste statistics. 2014 had 44 million tons of global e-waste, 2019 had 53.6, and 2030 is projected to have 74.7

Does your device turn on?

No:

Short of a paperweight, there aren’t many ways to repurpose a device that doesn’t power up. Amazon (among some big box retailers, like Best Buy and Staples) offers a hassle-free recycling program. As a Prime member, you can generate a shipping label to send a box of old devices via UPS at no cost.

Yes: 

  • Repurpose - Use the last generation smartphone as a bedside alarm clock, smart TV remote or Alexa-enabled light switch. There are plenty of apps, like ClockPhone and Alfred Home Security Camera, that can give your smart device new life.
  • Sell
    • Older model: Some “vintage” devices fetch big bucks on eBay. Certain models of the now-discontinued iPod command up to $20,000, so it’s worth a search before you write it off as junk.
    • Recent model: Many wireless carriers will offer trade-ins for devices they still sell in-store. However, there are some online selling options, like Gazelle and Decluttr, that will give you a cash offer in minutes and provide you a shipping label for free.
  • Donate - There are a variety of local options for donating your electronics, like to schools or libraries in need of computer mice or monitors. An alternative is an organization like 911 Cell Phone Bank, which provides emergency cell phones to vulnerable citizens. You can ship up to 10 devices at once with a prepaid shipping label.

Illustration of global e-waste statistics. 2014 had 44 million tons of global e-waste, 2019 had 53.6, and 2030 is projected to have 74.7

Sources: ctvnews.ca; unu.edu; amazon.com; reuters.com; money.com; electronics.howstuffworks.com; hometoys.com; zdnet.com; ewastemonitor.info