Recycle your old devices on Earth Day (and every day)

Deborah Salmi 22 Apr 2016

How to donate or responsibly dispose of your old, unused devices

A question that plagues the tech industry, as well as schools, small businesses, and countless households across the world is this: When electronics get old or lose their usefulness, what do you do with them?

The devices we depend on PCs, servers, tablets, smartphones, and so on are manufactured from valuable resources and materials, including metals, plastics, and glass, that must be extracted and processed. Donating or recycling electronics conserves our natural resources and avoids air and water pollution.

Here are a few notable statistics related to recycling the devices that we use on a daily basis:

  • The original owner keeps a laptop computer for only three years and will discard their cell phone after only 24 months.

  • According to the EPA, recycling one million laptops saves the energy equivalent to the electricity used by more than 3,500 US homes in a year. 

  • For every million phones that we recycle, 35 thousand pounds of copper, 772 pounds of silver, 75 pounds of gold, and 33 pounds of palladium can be recovered.

Donate or recycle: Where to take your old devices

It's better for everyone if you can find a place that accepts a donation. Look for foundations and charities in your area at the same time, realize that they don't want to inherit a bunch of junk, so make sure it's in good working condition. In the US, the National Cristina Foundation will connect you with organizations in your community that reuse technology for people with disabilities, at-risk students, and economically disadvantaged persons.

If you want to recycle, look for a reputable electronics recycling program. In the US, Best Buy has a recycling program certified to e-Stewards standards. They even take large appliances. Manufacturers like Dell and Apple also have their own programs that you can look up in your area.

Protect your security before donating or recycling

Your computer and phone are filled with personal and financial information. Since identity theft is one of the fastest growing cybercrimes, it's crucial that you take precautions.

Wipe the data from your computer

To protect your privacy, we recommend that you remove all data from a computer hard drive before donating, selling or recycling it. There are a number of ways to remove data from your hard drive, including a handy tool like Avast Data Shredder. If there is data that you want to preserve, make sure you do a backup first

Other methods include physically destroying your hard drive, which removes all data but also removes all reuse value. Degaussing (using a magnetic device to remove data) is another way, but verifying data destruction with this method is often quite difficult.

Wipe the data from your mobile device

You need to protect your privacy on your smartphones and tablets too. Avast Mobile Security comes with an anti-theft feature that allows you to do a complete wipe remotely. You can also do it directly from the handset. Here are the basics:

  • Reset Android using the smartphone: Menu > Settings > Privacy or Backup & Reset > Factory Data Reset

  • Reset iPhone using the smartphone: Settings > General > Reset > Erase All Content and Settings > Erase iPhone

  • Reset iPhone using iTunes: Summary tab > Restore iPhone > Restore > Agree

In any case, be sure to remove any batteries from your devices because they may need to be recycled separately.

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