How To Recycle Old Electronics When It's Time For An Upgrade

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It's finally time to upgrade your phone or laptop, but you have one dilemma to figure out first: how to recycle your old electronics. If they aren't usable anymore, you might make the mistake of tossing them in the trash. However, if you care about reducing waste, there are plenty of easy options at your disposal (pun intended), when it comes to responsibly recycling the tech gadgets you no longer use.

According to Gartner, a market researcher, over 1.5 billion smartphones were sold in 2017. When you take into consideration that the average life of a cell phone is four to seven years, per the Consumer Electronics Association, you can imagine just how many cell phones are thrown away (into a trash can, or even into a junk drawer) every year. In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency reported in 2014 that people threw away over 416,000 smartphones a day, on average. As USA Today noted at the time, these phones often end up at offshore landfills.

To avoid letting this happen, there are tons of ways you can ensure that your old laptop, iPad, iPhone, or other tech product will be re-used again and again. This might mean donating your usable electronics to someone directly or even to an organization that can re-sell them. On the other hand, you might have to find the right place to bring your old chargers or laptops, so that the pieces can be re-used for some other product. Odds are, you have more than one option, even if your phone is a little bit beaten up.

Here are some of the best and easiest options for recycling your electronics when you're ready to upgrade:

Turn Your iPhone (& Everything Else) Back In To Apple

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If you have Apple products that you're no longer using, you can probably sell them back to Apple for credit towards your next purchase, or receive that value back in the form of an Apple Store Gift Card. Apple even offers a breakdown of estimated value for older Apple products, if you trade them in. For example, an iPhone 6S could get you up to $80 back, while an iPhone XS could get you up to $420 back.

If your Apple product is cracked or otherwise damaged, you still might be able to get some money back for it. Find out what it's worth by filling out the trade-in form online, and then you can either bring your product in to an Apple store or mail it. Even if your product isn't worth anything, according to Apple, you can still recycle it properly through Apple for free.

In October 2019, Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, shared additional details about the trade-in program with Bustle. “The biggest thing for us on trade-in right now is getting it embedded in the consumer mindset that [if] they want a new product, they can give us the old one, and trust us to strip off all their data and everything else that people worry about," he explained at the time. When you do trade in your Apple product, Cook said, Apple will totally wipe your data and repurpose it for another person, which "extends the life of the product significantly."

Bring Your Old Tech Products To Best Buy

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BestBuy is the largest retailer of used electronics and appliances in the United States, according to its site. It will take a wide variety of tech products and appliances, regardless of the brand, and will recycle up to three items per household per day. You can check out more info on BestBuy's recycling program to learn about the limitations and details for the stores near you. You might even be eligible for a pickup at your house, if you're trying to recycle something large, like a television. Even if your product cannot be refurbished or resold, it's possible Best Buy's program will still take it and ensure the product is "responsibly recycled," per the FAQ site.

Find A Call2Recycle Drop-Off Location Near You

Call2Recycle is the country's largest battery recycling program, according to its site. If you visit it online and type in your zip code, you can find the nearest drop-off location for any batteries you need to get rid of. This includes cell-phone batteries, single-use batteries, or rechargeable batteries. You also have the option of mailing your batteries to the organization, if that works better for you.

Donate It To A Charity Or Nonprofit

If you want to give your used tech products a second life, and they're in working condition, then you can consider donating them for reuse, rather than recycling them for parts or money back. Here are some charities and nonprofits that will take your old tech products and give them to someone in need:

Sell It To Amazon

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Amazon will offer you upwards of $200 in exchange for any number of used devices, including cell phones, gaming devices, tablets, streaming media players, and more. It's worth noting that your product has to be in pretty good shape for Amazon to take it back, per the Trade-In FAQ — and if you're not sure if it's in the right condition, you can check the Product Eligibility Criteria page to find out. But it doesn't just stop at technology, for Amazon. You can also trade-in other products, like books. Even better, Amazon offers an easy search tool for you to find out if the used product in question is eligible for a trade-in.

Bring Your Printer Cartridge To Office Depot Or Staples

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If you have your own printer at home, then you can bring your used ink cartridges to Office Depot or Staples. At Staples, if you're a Staples Rewards member, you can receive $2 back in rewards for each ink cartridge you bring in to be recycled, up to 10 used cartridges a month. At Office Depot, if you're a member of OfficeMax Rewards, you can similarly bring in your used ink cartridges and get $2 back in rewards, up to 10 cartridges a month. Both rewards programs offer free membership.

There are a number of other cell-phone carriers and technology brands that offer some form of mail-in or drop-off recycling options. You can check out the details on the EPA's Electronics Donation and Recycling page.

The important distinction to make when recycling your electronics is whether your product can be reused by another person. From there, you can pick the right recycling program for your product's condition. All of the options above will take your working electronics, and some of them will take broken or worn-in electronics. If your laptop or phone is totally unusable, you can also recycle it through e-Stewards, a national recycling program that takes broken electronics and recycles them.