How to Recycle Used Electronics

We all want the latest and greatest gadgets and devices, but what do we do with the old electronics? Who can simply dispose of a phone that so effortlessly captured priceless memories of first dates, weddings, and over-too-fast vacations? That old phone, outdated as it may be, is just too good for the trashcan. Not only that, tossing old electronics into the landfill is a no-no in Colorado. Recycling is the proper method of disposal for all electronic equipment. Recycling protects the environment and gives that old phone a chance for a new life.

Be aware that recycling used electronics generally comes at a price. There are some exceptions: Goodwill will take used computers for free. SustainAbility Electronics happily accepts cell phones, laptops, and iPods for free, but does charge to take other electronic items (monitors, keyboards, mice, video game systems) off your hands. Other recycling agencies have their own list of charges, so check around.

Environmental concerns

Paying to dispose of used electronics may not be fun, but properly disposing of used electronics is worth the added cost. Electronic devices perform amazing tasks, but they do so through the use of a host of toxic chemicals, everything from arsenic to silver. Indeed, these materials are so harmful that as of 2013, it is illegal to discard e-waste in Colorado landfills.

E-waste includes such items as computer monitors, laptops, tablets, and video game consoles, along with any related peripherals, such as mice and keyboards. Residents and businesses alike must dispose of these items at a recycling center.

Wipe personal data

Before loading up your car with your old iPhone, iPad, or PlayStation 2, protect yourself by clearing your data off all of your old devices. Consumer Reports gives tips on how to prepare your old device for recycling. In short, first back up your content. On your phone or tablet, set up a passcode (if you haven’t already) and do a factory-reset. The factory-reset will delete the passcode, keeping your data safe from all but the highest-level encryption experts.

An alternative method is to connect the device to your computer and erase all files and folders. In addition, remove SD memory cards and the SIM card. Use the manual to help find any hidden storage slots.

On laptops and desktops, remove any flash drives from USB ports and check other drives for CDs and DVDs. Then perform a secure wipe. There are a number of available programs that will do this, including some that are already installed on your computer.

Safest of all (if you’re not going to Goodwill) is to remove the hard drive. If you are concerned at all about the security of your personal data and you are unsure of your computer skills, smashing all storage drives with a hammer will keep your information safe from any hacker.

Places to recycle:

Goodwill accepts drop-offs of computers at any of their many locations in the greater Denver area, but they do not accept monitors or printers. Computers should be wiped clean of data (see Wipe Personal Data, above), but leave the hard drive in the computer so that they can resell the refurbished equipment.

SustainAbility Electronics charges for electronic items on a sliding scale. You can drop off laptops, cell phones, and iPods for free. Keyboards, mice, and video game systems cost $.15/lb, while computer monitors are $.44/lb. SustainAbility will also take Li-Ion rechargeable laptop and cell phone batteries for free. Plus, SustainAbility will shred drives for $5 a pop. They also provide a locked container so that you can drop off your hard drive for safe, guaranteed destruction.

Denver Recycles accepts monitors, CPUs, laptops, printers, keyboards, mice, and rechargeable batteries, in addition to other electronics. Their partner, MeTech Recycling, offers steep discounts to Denver residents who obtain an e-cycle coupon online or by calling 311 (720-913-1311). E-coupons are limited to one per household per calendar year, so gather together all of your electronics before applying for one.

Benefits of recycling

In addition to keeping toxic waste out of landfills, recycling agencies in the Denver area provide other advantages. The proceeds from the sales at Goodwill help support job training and education for at-risk students and disadvantaged and disabled adults. SustainAbility provides work for people with disabilities through the process of disassembling products to be passed on to recycling facilities.

Recycling helps the environment and helps the community. The many recycling agencies in the Denver area can help you with whatever electronic waste disposal needs you may have.