10 ways to recycle your technology and manage e-waste

It’s amazing how much technology, gadgets, memory sticks, wires, and batteries we all have these days. We all are accumulating more e-waste than we are able to handle, and it’s time to make a conscious effort to get it under control.

I am extremely guilty of not keeping electronic waste to the minimum at my home. Over the past two years, we have thinned down everything in our home, including furniture, clothes, and toys, but the electronics still seemed to pile up.

Finally, I am making a conscious effort to manage the e-waste in our home.

Here are some ideas I have gathered.

1. Buy less.

Buying things we simply do not need might be the biggest cause for an e-waste problem. It is really important for us to just stop (really STOP) and ask ourselves if we need a gadget or electronic item BEFORE we buy it. We really need to activate that voice in our heads that talks to us and prevents us (or our spouses) from buying electronic items we do not need.

Photo by Nick Ames

2. Organize what you have.

Electronics are a commodity these days, very much like the clothes we wear. If you do not organize your gadgets, wires, connectors and DVDs, you will never really know what you have. The last thing you want to do is buy something thinking 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 do not NEED a piece of equipment, donate it as soon as possible so that someone else can use it. Donations are great way to get tax deductions as well — and very often, that tax deductible amount will be very close to the value of the item if you tried to sell it. If something you have is not even worth donating, then try giving your stuff away for free on sites such as FreeCycle.

4. Take them back to the store.

These days, a number of stores are investing in a buy back program. If you’re making a new purchase at a store, be sure to ask the store if they will buy back your old camera, laptop or any other electronic item. Best Buy has a trade-in option, where you can get rid of your old equipment in exchange of Best Buy gift cards.

5. Sell.

Craigslist and eBay are the best places to sell electronic items that are potentially valuable to someone else but useless to you.

Be sure to sell your electronic items right away – they will lose value rapidly as later models come into the market. Craigslist is a good option to sell heavy or lower value items, since shipping is often not involved.

Photo by Scott Ableman

6. Learn about your local recycling options.

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

7. Think ahead.

The last time we moved, we actually had to pay to dispose a bunch of electronics. We did not have enough time to find people that wanted what we had — that was indeed a terrible feeling.

We really have no quick way to get rid of e-waste. We will have to dispose them sooner or later, so why not make money on them now, rather than pay dearly to get rid of them later? Never pile up, and always plan for the future.

8. Live in the cloud (and in cyberspace).

If you are running a business, there is no longer a need to buy a large server or heavy-duty machines for your work. Microsoft’s mesh and Dropbox are great resources for you to back up and sync your files across multiple machines, without having to invest in a server. For the technical people, the cloud is also a great option for businesses to expand their memory on the fly and as needed.

9. Make a good-e-bag.

I go to a number of conferences where they give away memory sticks and little gadgets. I recently made a good-e bag with all the items collected from these conferences, and I hand a number of these out to people that can really use them. Make one yourself, and you will see how quickly it fills up. This is a creative way to “catch” small but useless pieces of electronics, and give them to people that have a use for 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 in the right way. Make sure to educate yourself, you kids, and your neighbors about this . Discovering all the toxins in electronics will push you to be more mindful of e-waste.

Has e-waste become a problem in your life? Have you found more creative ways to deal with it?


Maya is the founder of Memetales - a mobile reader and publishing platform for children's stories. Get your child reading by downloading the FREE iphone/ipod touch app with 20 Free books included!

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  1. 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. very very useful info. thanks for sharing maya.

  3. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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.

    .-= Rhiannon´s last blog ..What kind of mama are you? =-.

  9. 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. 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 says:

    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. 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. Thank for these tips. I learned something new today. thank you.
    .-= Velvet´s last blog ..Straight from "The Book of Jungle" =-.

  14. 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.

  15. 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!

  16. really helpful but need more info!

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

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