10 tips for managing e-waste

It’s amazing how much technology, gadgets, memory sticks, wires, and batteries we have these days. We accumulate more e-waste than we’re able to handle, so it’s good to get it under control.

I’m guilty of not keeping electronic waste to a minimum—over the past few years, we’ve thinned down things in our home like furniture, clothes, and toys, but the electronics still pile up.

I’m finally making a conscious effort to manage our family’s e-waste.

Here’s a few ideas I’ve gathered.

1. Buy less.

Buying things we simply do not need is probably the biggest cause of e-waste. We need to stop (really, STOP) and ask ourselves if we even need a gadget or electronic item BEFORE we buy it.

We need to activate that voice in our heads that prevents us from buying electronic items we simply don’t need.


Photo by Nick Ames

2. Organize what you have.

If you don’t organize your gadgets, wires, connectors and DVDs, you”ll never really know what you have. The last thing you want is to buy something you think you need it, only to find a duplicate buried in your cabinet.

Both my husband and I are active consumers of technology, and we have to be organized enough to know what we have in order to prevent buying duplicates.

3. Give away or donate your e-waste.

If you don’t need a thing, donate it so someone else can use it. Donations are great for tax deductions; often the amount will be close to the value of the item if you tried to sell it.

If something you have isn’t worth donating, maybe give your stuff away for free on sites like FreeCycle.

4. Take them back to the store.

A few stores have a buy-back program. Before you purchase a new gadget at a store, ask the store if they’ll buy back your old camera, laptop, or any other electronic. Best Buy has a trade-in option, where you can get rid of your old equipment in exchange for Best Buy gift cards.

5. Sell.

Craigslist and eBay are the best places to sell electronic items.

Sell your electronic items as soon as you don’t need them; they lose value rapidly when newer models come on the market. Craigslist is a good option to sell heavy or lower value items, since shipping isn’t involved.


Photo by Scott Ableman

6. Learn about your local recycling options.

If you’re in the United States, the EPA website has information on your local options for recycling electronics. No matter where you live, check out your options to recycle locally, and share them with your family and community.

7. Think ahead.

We actually had to pay to toss a bunch of electronics the last time we moved. We didn’t have enough time to find people that wanted what we had, which felt terrible.

There’s no quick way to get rid of e-waste—we have to dispose of them sooner or later, so why not make money on them now? Don’t let them pile up.

8. Live in the cloud.

There’s really no need to buy a large server or heavy-duty machines for either work or personal storage. Dropbox or Amazon’s AWS cloud are great for backing up and syncing your files across multiple devices, without having to invest in a server.

9. Make a good-e-bag.

I go to a number of conferences where they give away memory sticks and random little gadgets. I made a good-e bag with all the items collected from these conferences, and I hand these out to people that could actually use them.

10. Educate yourself, and be a little afraid.

Most electronic gadgets have toxic materials in them, so it is extremely important to dispose of them the right way. Educate yourself, your kids, and your friends. These toxins should push us to be more mindful of e-waste.

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19 Comments

  1. Tepary

    This is just wild isn’t it? How much stuff we accumulate and then the last point about the materials involved in many of these electronics is disturbing. The throw away society has so much to answer for and that includes me.

    What really revolutionized how I think of stuff is taking part in The Rubbish Diet. I believe the blog is http://therubbishdiet.blogspot.com Frankly, the most successful diet I’ve ever gone on. I’ve rid myself of lots of stuff, I wish I could just apply the same to my weight.
    .-= Tepary´s last blog ..Close to Home =-.

  2. div

    very very useful info. thanks for sharing maya.

  3. Dustin | Engaged Marriage

    I appreciate this thoughtful post. My family is as guilty as anyone at accumulating way too many e-waste-producing items around our home. We are definitely conscious about disposing/recycling/donating them appropriately when we get rid of them, but your post will make me more conscious about our decisions to acquire them in the first place.
    .-= Dustin | Engaged Marriage´s last blog ..Do You Pray With Your Kids? =-.

  4. Simple Homeschool ~ Jamie

    Thanks for all this information, Maya! I often struggle with feelings of guilt when I know I need to get rid of something but don’t know the proper protocol.

    That EPA website is a helpful resource–bookmarking it now!
    .-= Simple Homeschool ~ Jamie´s last blog ..The Model Homeschool =-.

  5. Kara

    I have only just this past year accumulated my first big piece of e-waste: my college laptop. I have no idea what I want to do with it, so it just waits in a box as I try to decide. I think some of these tips might be very useful for dealing with it. I’d hate to toss it, but I wonder if anyone would ever want to give it a second life since it is so outdated at this point.

    Cell phones have always been a big problem for me too; they never seem to last! I am one who wants to keep a phone for more than a few years, but can’t because of built in obsolescence. It frustrates me to no end that my phone just won’t charge after a few years, or the display quits working, or whatever else happens.

    I wonder if anyone else had read Cradle to Cradle? I love McDonough’s idea of having a system where customers buy products (like a new TV) for it’s “service” and not the physical object itself (which will become junk), and then at the end the product goes back to the manufacture who uses the parts to make new products. With the rate that many people go through electronics, with most still working upon being replaced, I think it could really work! Maybe I’m just optimistic too?

  6. Hannah

    We found a great way to recycle our old CD changer last night — we gave our three kids a few tools and let them go to town tinkering with it! I think that will be our modus operandi for all outdated appliances around here.
    .-= Hannah´s last blog ..Doin’ The Funky Chicken! =-.

  7. exhale. return to center.

    thank you for this. i have a bag of old cell phones and chargers sitting here next to me waiting for me to do *something* with them.
    .-= exhale. return to center.´s last blog ..sharing the journey =-.

  8. Rhiannon

    When my husband and I bought our new cell phones Verizon included free pre-paid envelopes to send our old ones to Cell Phones for Soldiers, a non profit that collects old phones for soldiers to talk to loved ones. It’s an awesom program and they have free drop off points everywhere. Here’s the website if anyone’s interested.

    http://www.cellphonesforsoldiers.com
    .-= Rhiannon´s last blog ..What kind of mama are you? =-.

    • Maya

      Great resource there. Thanks for sharing Rhiannon!

  9. Mandi @ Organizing Your Way

    Wonderful post, Maya!! This is a huge issue that’s just going to get bigger as we make more technological advances, and having a plan for dealing with it is good for the environment and decluttering our own homes.
    .-= Mandi @ Organizing Your Way´s last blog ..Setting Goals for Yourself as a Home Manager =-.

  10. jenny

    This was a great article- I recently came across an organization that recycles old electronics by “purchasing” them from you. The money can be donated to the charity of your choice and you can even set up a donation page for an organization close to your heart. It’s called Gazelle For Good: http://www.gazelle.com/gazelle-for-good

  11. MiniDayz

    I find this article helpful, being an environmental saver myself, I discard of my electronic waste properly. However, it is so hard to do so. I recently upgraded my RAM (random access memory) on my computer. Being so, a 512MB stick is practically very “2001” since no one uses it anymore, and it’s beyond outdated. Anyway, I took it to Staples where they said they recycle e-waste from pcs, computers, laptops, cameras, cellphones, etc. I asked a sales associate about recycling my RAM and he said he wasn’t sure, so he asked his manager.

    He replied to me a moment later with his manager saying that they do not recycle it because that it’s difficult work that requires breaking the stick down and erasing all the memory, and they do not have the technician to do that. That is understandable to a point, because if it’s that much of a hassle, I wouldn’t take it here. However, this reason didn’t work for me because the fact that they take laptops and pcs (without mentioning having to take any RAM, video card, or hard drives out) and they could be recycled. Is that not the same as me handing them the RAM stick? The laptops and pcs have RAM too , and they were willing to take that?

    And from my knowledge, I don’t think RAM sticks carry any sort of memory that requires erasing. Sorry if I am wrong. So, am I missing something here?

  12. Tori {Daily Grommet}

    Great tips here, thanks for bringing this up. I know I have often been confused and asked myself, “Okay, what do I do with this?” I like the option of returning to the store for credit- thanks for sharing!
    .-= Tori {Daily Grommet}´s last blog ..Postcarden =-.

  13. Vanessa

    Little gadgets like the stuff you mentioned in your e-bag. Small storage drives, or headphones from the airplane would make great donations to children’s homes or schools in low-income areas.

  14. Electronic Gadgets

    I admire the valuable information you offer in your articles. I will bookmark your blog and have my children check up here often. I am quite sure they will learn lots of new stuff here than anybody else!

  15. kiran

    really helpful but need more info!

    • kiran

      nature needs our assistance,we should help her otherwise consequences will not be in our favour!

  16. alex

    Thank you for all your info this helped me for my science project.

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