Reader question: How to dispose of old electronics?

Reader Alicia asked the following question:

What’s the best way to dispose of broken electronics? I have a drawerful of old cameras, Discmans, earbuds, etc. – can I just throw them out or is there a better way to get rid of the clutter?

Great question, Alicia! Your notion to keep the electronics out of your trash can is correct. Electronics should be donated to charity or recycled–not sent to take up space in a landfill.

Listed below is a small collection of resources for what you can do with old electronics. This list is obviously not exhaustive, so hopefully people will add some additional ideas into the comments section. Also, a search of your local government’s website with the terms “tech recycle” or “electronic recycle” will likely yield a number of results specific to your community.

Before I get to the list of disposal and recycling services, I would like to remind you that if you are getting rid of a computer or any electronic device with a hard drive that you should properly delete the contents of the drive first and reset it to factory settings. To do this, check out the following programs:

Remember that smartphones and smartwatches should have their data erased and reset to factory settings as well.

Now, on with the list for disposing of old electronics:


This post has been updated since its original publication in 2007.

14 Comments for “Reader question: How to dispose of old electronics?”

  1. posted by Jason B. on

    It’s not “recycling” per se, but a service that I have used in the past is They buy used consumer electronics. I’ve personally “traded in” a couple of old cell phones and an old Mac desktop computer. The process can be a bit slow, but in the end you’ll clear up some space in your closet, have a bit of extra cash in your pocket and keep electronics out of a landfill.

  2. posted by mike on

    If you have municipal trash pick up, call them. They may have special collection times for electronics. My city will take electronics at their hazardous waste collection site every Wednesday…not sure what happens after that, but they are not being incinerated or dumped.

  3. posted by Dweeb on

    You can also recycle computers at Staples. There is one only a block from my apartment, and I walked my big old desktop over there this past weekend. There is a $10 charge per large item.

  4. posted by Lulu on

    -Salvation Army(you get a tax write off)

    -the websites: freecycle, instructables, craigslist—these are great for tinkerers scrounging for parts.

    –there are several organizations that take gently used cellphones and reprogram them to be used as emergency phones for the elderly or battered women.

    -call your local shelter:(womens,labor,homeless)–you’ll feel good knowing you helped out and rack up some “good karma” points)

  5. posted by Dorianne on

    If you are thinking of donating stuff to a non-profit charity, PLEASE phone and ask before you bring it! I work in a non-profit, and we constantly have loads of people try to drop off stuff we can’t possibly use or get rid of…and then get mad at us for not being properly grateful for their unwanted junk. 🙁

    If it doesn’t work or is woefully outdated (this goes especially for computer equipment), 9 times out of 10 we can’t do anything with it except toss it.

  6. posted by Mags on

    Lulu is right: try freecycle. Our local one here in the UK in always groaning with ‘wanted’ posts for electronics – sometimes just so it can be used for spare parts…

  7. posted by Jeri Dansky on

    Since reuse beats recycling, if you can find a reuse option (and I’m another big Freecycle fan), that’s a great way to go.

    If it comes down to recycling, those of us in the San Francisco Bay Area have a wonderful option: GreenCitizen.

    100% of what you give GreenCitizen is safely recycled – which they say is often not the case with other electronics recyclers.

  8. posted by David C on

    In Europe there are new rules on safety which mean that if an appliance causes injury through electric shock or fire, the seller is liable, even if the device is sold clearly on the basis that it is used and not guaranteed, and even if the seller is a charity. The only way for a selling organisation to protect itself legally is to arrange for a formal test of electrical safety from an accredited organisation. The practical effect is that most charities now have signs saying that they won’t accept donations of electrical devices. The waste that results I find saddening.

  9. posted by Super Lotek on

    Does anyone know about getting rid of CD-Rs? I have tons I want to throw out, but I don’t feel comfortable putting them in the trash. I never see anything about how to dispose of them…Any thoughts?

  10. posted by Jacki Hollywood Brown on

    In Canada check out ReBoot (
    You donate your computer/electronics and they give you a tax receipt for what your computer is worth. They give the electronics a good cleaning (including disk scrubbing) then donate it to a registered charity.

  11. posted by Kirk Roberts on

    For CD-Rs and other “techno-trash” there is a company called Greendisk ( ) that takes items by mail.

    I also just saw that Epson has a recycling program that involves mailing your item in. You pay $10 and get a $5 coupon for the Epson store.

  12. posted by Leigh on

    I always donate my old stuff to

    Getting rid of stuff, doing something good and getting a tax deduction…three great things at once.

  13. posted by Law Firm Spring Cleaning — Disposing of Old Electronics on

    […] a more comprehensive run down of how to get rid of almost anything electronic, check this excellent article from the […]

  14. posted by What to Do With Old Electronics | The Friendly Manual on

    […] (And if you’re looking for more ideas for how to get rid of stuff, Unclutterer has some great […]

Comments are closed.