What to do with old unwanted cables

Technology improves at a rapid pace and the devices we love today are the outdated clunkers of tomorrow. Who’s got a VCR sitting around? I do. And although you may have a plan to replace, donate, or properly dispose of unwanted hardware, you still might have a pile of cables on hand. Fortunately, this often-overlooked pile of clutter is easy to handle.

I recently read an article on MacObserver that’s full of suggestions for managing unwanted cables. Writing for MacObserver, Kelly Guimont begins with practical advice:

Start by making sure your friends and family all have what they need too. Perhaps they need extras for car charging or computer bags or whatever.

The cable you don’t need might be exactly what a relative or friend wants. Gulmont continues, describing various options for recycling: Best Buy and Staples have free programs and “… 1-800-Recycling and the National Center for Electronics Recycling will hook you up with the appropriate local facilities.”

I will add schools and scouting groups to the list of possible cable donation recipients. Many have STEM programs that are always in need of donations, and the cables they need often aren’t the latest and greatest.

Other suggestions: Be sure you know your devices well to know exactly which cables you need for your devices. When you donate or recycle your equipment, include the appropriate cables with the device in your donation — especially duplicates. Also, check with your local municipal and/or county recycling centers to learn where to dispose of the cables so when it is appropriate to trash them (such as broken and unsafe cables) you know the location to drop them off and the process.

Cables are insidious things that love to congregate in homes and never leave. The good news is there are several options for finding them a new place to be. Happy organizing!

6 Comments for “What to do with old unwanted cables”

  1. posted by Heather on

    I just give them directly to Goodwill or my other local thrift store. There’s a good chance that they’ll be able to sell them (even old, obscure cables with adapters that nobody recognizes), and they have arrangements with electronics recyclers who will take anything that can’t be sold (like frayed or broken cables). Never trash old cables; there’s always somebody willing to strip the bad ones to recover the copper. Just ask ahead of time if your thrift store has an electronics recycling program.

    In my town, both of the big thrift stores have a large electronics section, and they’re always my first stop when I need a spare power strip, extension cord, or ipod charger. You can usually find a cell phone charger for $1 when Best Buy charges $15 or more. They’re great for obscure cables for older electronics with funny-shaped plugs. I once received a printer from a friend who was moving and had lost the USB cable to connect it to a computer. The shape of the port on the back of the printer didn’t match any of the cables I was finding online (and most of the printer cables were priced at $30 anyway), but Goodwill had it in their bin of USB cables.

  2. posted by SC88 on

    If you are looking for a place to recycle, many (maybe all) Best Buy locations have a recycle bin in their entrances for cables (and old CDs). You don’t have to actually even go in the store, (just the foyer).

  3. posted by Stephanie on

    Or use them decoratively….


  4. posted by Mike Hathaway on

    Schools generally do not need cables. People think they have value but in all honesty they just take up extremely valuable space. Computers use only a couple types of cables, Power, network and USB. You are best off finding a recycling place. In my small School IT Shop I send anywhere from 6 to 7 of those paper boxes full of cables off to the copper recyclers. Now with companies like monoprice and amazon prime its easier to just order new cables than store anything. Most stuff that has been stored is old and breaking down, you walk into my shop to donate a 10 year old power cable we have to send you packing its a fire hazard by now as the rubber and plastics are starting to break down. Home Depot and Best buy have bins. At home I have a bucket I throw cables and old electronics, batteries and dead cfl bulbs into then recycle the bucket every once in a while

  5. posted by margaret on

    Hi. I live in Sydney Australia. I just bought a new computer and had my IT chap set it up. I had (have) a huge box of cables which he checked out and said I could dispose of almost all of them. In my quest to find a responsible way to dispose of them I found that a SITA Australia will accept them in limited quantities. However after phoning them I found that I’d probably get through with a box full after checking in at the check-in station. So Aussies, you might want to check out the website of SITA australia for more more information and nearest location. Also local councils sometimes have special Ewaste drop off days. We have one coming up on 17th April for Lane Cove/Hunters Hill residents. Best wishes to all.

  6. posted by skiptheBS on

    Little-used, well-cared-for cables should not be a fire hazard. I purchase bags/boxes of cables for an acquaintance who repairs his friends’ computers. Any surplus goes to the Sally or the recycler.
    Check your local hotel Lost and Found for phone chargers. People leave them behind constantly. Usually free, sometimes a buck, almost always current models.

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