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Disposing of Old Electronics

  • Posted: 12.17.2019
blue recycling tubs
Image: Safe Electricity

If your holiday gifts included shiny new electronic components, you are probably planning to toss your old, outdated items. WAIT! Before you give your worn out electronics the heave-ho, consider this earth-friendly advice from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA):

Try to Recycle
Electronics are made from metals, plastics and glass that require energy and time to reproduce. For example, according to the EPA:

  • Recycling one million laptops saves the energy equivalent to the electricity used by more than 3,500 U.S. homes in a year.
  • For every million cell phones we recycle, 35 thousand pounds of copper, 772 pounds of silver, 75 pounds of gold and 33 pounds of palladium can be recovered.

Where to Donate or Recycle
Several manufacturers and local and national retailers offer donation or recycling options. The EPA’s Sustainable Materials Management (SMM) tracks and publicizes participants and major companies including Best Buy, Dell, Sprint, Sony and Vizio. SMM participants strive to send 100 percent of used electronics they collect to certified recyclers and refurbishers.

For more information about recycling electronics, refer to EPA’s website and search for “electronics recycling.”

Before You Donate or Recycle
Can you upgrade the hardware or software on your current computer to extend its life? If the answer is no and you ultimately decide to get rid of a computer or other device, destroy all personal information from the device first. Also, remove any batteries from your electronics for separate recycling.

How to Remove Data Before Donating or Recycling
There are a variety of ways to permanently erase (or “sanitize”) data from your electronic devices prior to getting rid of them, and methods vary from device to device. According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Earth 911, and other electronic recycling gurus, general guidelines include:

  • Back up. Save your data to another device or second location (external hard drive or the cloud).
  • Delete. Although files appear to have been removed, data is still there, according to Homeland Security. Even if you empty the virtual trash, the deleted items can still be retrieved. Permanent data deletion requires several steps; spend some time researching how to effectively delete data for the device you are recycling.
  • Overwrite. This is when you delete sensitive information and write new binary data over it. Unless you are a computer expert you might want to consult a professional for this.
  • Destroy. Take your stress out on your device. Physically destructing a device is the ultimate way to prevent someone else from retrieving your personal information. There are companies that specialize in disintegrating, burning, melting or pulverizing your computer drive and other devices.

For more information on removing data from electronic devices, refer to the Department of Homeland Security’s website.

Source: Safe Electricity