Recycling Computers, Phones, and Televisions: You’re Probably Not Doing It

cell phones for recycling

Got old electronics sitting in the basement, a closet, or even a room you use? According to a new study from Staples, probably:Β while many of us sell them on eBay, donate or re-gift them, or even (gasp!) throw them away, most of us are hoarding those old electronics. Only 8% of us are recycling computers and televisions taking up space in our homes. Take a look at the numbers:

Old Gadgets, New Clutter: Americans are More Likely to Trash Electronics Than Recycle Them (via Staples).

Ironically, even while we’re allowing old devices to clutter up our living space, we want more gadgets: a majority of us will be telling our loved ones that we want a new phone, a new tablet, etc. Furthermore, many of us will just assume someone on our list wants something electronic, even thought s/he really doesn’t… but we’ll buy it anyway.

So, Why Aren’t We Recycling those Gadgets?

If you’re reading this, your likely the kind of person who’s aware of options for recycling electronic waste; it turns out, though, that you’re in the minority. The Staples study shows thatΒ many people still don’t know that they can recycle those televisions and phones. Others claim that opportunities to recycle e-waste aren’t available in their area.

I’m guessing that, in many cases, people just aren’t getting the right information. So, here are some resources to share next time a friend or family member heads for the trash can with their old cell phone.

  • Online services like Earth911 and 1-800-Recycling.com provide directories for recycling services in your area – just put in your location, and choose the kind of material you want to recycle.
  • If you’d like to make a little money off of that old computer, avoid just selling it on Craigslist, and find a service that will purchase it to recapture valuable materials or refurbish it for further use. Staples has a service like this.
  • Subscribe to your neighborhood/town online community (mine uses Nextdoor), as information about e-recycling drives sponsored by community organizations will often get announced there. That’s how I got rid of an old computer collecting dust in the basement (yep, I’m guilty on this front, too).
  • Finally, if you buy new at chain retailers, or even local ones, ask about their options for recycling the gadget you’re replacing –Β they may be able to take it off of your hands right there. That’s how I’ve dealt with my last few cell phones.

How do you keep on top of electronic waste options (in theory, anyway)? If you’re among the few that do recycle your gadgets regularly, how do you do it? And if anything else from the study grabs your attention, let us know…


  1. Janey J

    Hi Jeff, this is an excellent article. It is really surprising that so few people recycle their old devices, particularly as there are now lots of companies across the internet who offer cash for them as well as ensuring that they are disposed of in an environmentally sound way. I use http://www.sellmycellphones.com when I am selling. I have sold two phones and an iPad through them in the past 2 years and have always been happy with the price and service. They compare some of America’s most well known electronics recyclers so it is a good place to get a feel for how much yours is selling for.



    1. Jeff McIntire-Strasburg

      Thanks for sharing these folks, Janey! I took a look at their site, and am a little concerned that I don’t see any obvious statements on environmental policies and practices. I did leave a comment on a post on their blog (about America Recycles Day) about these issues, and look forward to their response.

      1. Janey J

        Hi Jeff, that’s great. I don’t think they buy the phones themselves. I sold mine to a company called Gizmogul through them who were R2 certified according to their bio.

  2. David Thorpe

    As someone said on our Facebook page, reusing is much better than recycling. So the 51% who traded it in, gave it away, sold it, etc. are actually doing the better thing. It’s the 13% who lost it and the 5% and threw it away that need to either reuse or recycle.

    1. Jeff McIntire-Strasburg

      With the important qualification that we don’t always know what happens with those products in those cases: often, the buyer/recipient strips out valuable materials for resale, and discards the rest (essentially, recycles it). But I agree with that statement in principle: I think refurbishing for reuse is almost always preferable..

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