Electronic Waste Recycling: Know Your Options

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The fastest-growing type of waste globally is electronic waste. In fact, it’s estimated that the United States generates 40 million tons of e-waste each year.

That’s a lot of electronic junk. But, what can we do about it? The answer is to recycle our electronics.

Why Recycle Electronic Waste?

What happens to your old devices is more important than you may think. Electronic waste is one of the most harmful types of waste for the environment and for human health.

This is because it often contains hazardous materials like:

  • Cadmium
  • Brominated flame retardants 
  • Lead

These substances can leach into the ground, contaminate water supplies, or get released into the air if someone burns electronic waste.

Getting the Most Out of Your Tech Is Good for the Environment

The best way to slow down the growth of e-waste and keep devices out of landfills is to keep your gadgets in use for as long as possible. And the best way to do that is by maintaining and repairing them. By regularly maintaining and even repairing tech, you can:

  • Add memory
  • Boost battery power
  • Improve processing

Fixing things makes less waste, but it also slows the use of natural resources. For example, the United States could save 7.8 million tons in raw materials each year if everyone used their cell phones for an extra 12 months.

Options for Recycling Your Old Electronics

You can recycle your old electronic equipment in several ways. For example, you can:

  • Take them to an electronic waste recycling center
  • Mail them to a recycling program
  • Return them to the manufacturer’s recycling program
  • Save them for a local e-waste recycling event
  • Search for local recycling options
  • Sell them online

Let’s look at these options more closely:

Electronic Waste Recycling Centers

There are many electronic waste recycling centers in the United States. These centers accept various electronic equipment, including:

  • Cell phones
  • Computers
  • Fax machines
  • Printers
  • Televisions
  • Other electronic gear

Most centers will also accept electronic waste from businesses and organizations. To find an electronic waste recycling center near you, search online or check with your local waste management department.

Mail-in Programs

There are also mail-in programs available for recycling electronic waste, like the one offered by recycling company Waste Management. These programs allow you to send your electronic equipment directly to the recycling company, often at no cost to you.

The obvious benefit of mail-in programs is that you don’t have to leave your home to recycle your electronics. You simply pack up the items you want to recycle, print out a shipping label, and send them off.


Many manufacturers of electronic equipment offer their own recycling programs for their products. For example, Apple’s recycling program accepts any Apple product, including iPhones, iPads, iPods, and Mac computers.

Companies design their recycling programs specifically for their equipment, and so can often recycle the materials more efficiently than others.

Local E-waste Events 

Another possibility for recycling electronic waste is taking part in a local e-waste event. Community organizations or businesses periodically hold these events and allow residents to bring their electronic waste in for recycling.

Ask your local waste management department to see if any are scheduled in your area.


Earth911 recycling search can help if you’re unsure of where to recycle your electronic waste. This website provides a searchable database of recycling locations for various materials. Enter your zip code, the material you need to recycle, and Earth911 will give you a list of nearby recycling options.

Selling Your Old Devices

You could even make some money with your old electronic waste. The number of people who may want your old tech may surprise you.

Online marketplaces allow you to sell your old devices to people all over the globe. Not only will you recoup some cash from your unwanted electronics, but it’s also good for the environment. Selling an old device keeps it out of a landfill and allows someone else to get use out of it.

But before you sell your old tech, make sure you wipe the device of all personal data. This includes anything from photos to account login information. A factory reset might not completely delete everything, so it’s best to use data-wiping software made specifically for this task.

Recycling Is Good for Everyone

By taking the time to recycle your electronic equipment, you’re helping to protect the environment and human health. Thankfully, there are many options for recycling electronic waste safely and responsibly across the country.