The 3 R’s of Retiring Your Old Gadgets: Reuse, Resell, or Recycle
My home is an electronics warehouse from hell. Even I am appalled by the amount of gear that has piled up over the years. Desktops, laptops, tablets, cameras, game consoles, scanners, printers — if it’s digital, you’ll find it covered in dust and squirreled away in my storage room.
Hey, don’t judge. When you’ve been writing about gadgets since the dawn of time, as I have, these things collect. Every time I ship one back, two more show up. I have a banker’s box overflowing with orphaned power bricks I neglected to return. And cellphones? Don’t get me started.
While you probably don’t have quite this much techno-crap in your house, I’ll bet you have some. According to the NPD Group, the average U.S. household owns nearly six Internet-connected devices. A recent survey by used gadget marketplace uSell reports that seven out of 10 Americans own gizmos they haven’t touched for at least two years. As a species, we generate 20 million to 50 million metric tons of e-waste each year, most of it toxic, the vast majority of which still goes into landfills.
So in my household and probably yours, it’s time for some serious spring cleaning. But if you want to do it in a responsible way, your options boil down to the three R’s: reuse, resell, or recycle.
But before you do any of that, read this first: Five Things You Must Do Before You Ditch Your Old Gadgets.
Give to a good cause
The first and best option is to give your old technology to someone who needs it more than you do. For years, we donated old desktops to our kids’ schools, until we realized they simply weren’t equipped to deal with the deluge of gear. Your school may vary, and if you’ve got any geek skills at all, most nonprofits will benefit more from your time and expertise than your stuff.
A better idea is to find an organization that restores old tech and distributes it where it will do the most good. Seattle’s InterConnection.org, for example, will wipe everything from your device, reinstall an operating system and software, replace any broken bits, and distribute it to a nonprofit organization. If you’re donating a laptop or a phone, you can mail it in, and InterConnection will pay the shipping, provided that it still works and is less than seven years old. The rest it sends to a certified recycler.