Most of us know that electronic waste is nasty stuff. Discarded digital devices clog landfills and leach heavy metals into groundwater when they degrade. Not reusing our devices also wastes lots of energy and other resources.
So why don't more of us recycle our used printer cartridges, dead phones, old hard drives and PCs? Frankly, it seems a lot easier to simply drop a dead device into the garbage than to find a way to recycle it. However, recycling your old electronics is easier than you think. A small amount of effort can actually make a big contribution to a cleaner environment and could even save you money.
If you have an old iPhone or Galaxy phone that still works, go to a site such as Gazelle.com to see how much they'll give you for your device. A 16GB iPhone 4s is worth as much as $40, for example, and if you sell yours to a reseller it will be resold and reused.
Here are a few resources dedicated to recycling electronic devices of all types.
This site is a one stop shop for all things recycling, from household and yard waste to hazardous waste and electronics. You can find links to municipal resources and community programs, as well as recycling locations for just about anything.
The e-Stewards Initiative is a project of the Basel Action Network (BAN), a nonprofit, charitable organization. Its site has extensive information about the growing problem of e-waste, and it offers a tool to help you find Certified e-Stewards Recyclers near you.
This site is a great source for information about buying green, and it includes a nationwide list of certified e-cycling locations.
It's also possible to sell your old computer. Apple has a program that will connect you to a vendor who will buy a used Mac or PC. After you tell Apple about your device, the company lets you know what it's worth, and you get pre-paid shipping materials in the mail. You're compensated via an Apple Store gift card. If your old computer doesn't qualify for reuse, Apple will recycle it at no cost.
Apple also offers free recycling for all Mac batteries. Just bring your old Mac battery to an Apple retail store, and the company takes care of the rest. If for some reason you can't remove the battery, bring the laptop with you and a clerk will remove it. Although that's a bit of trouble, it's worth it. Not only are batteries filled with heavy metals, they have the potential to catch fire or even explode under certain conditions. Batteries really don't belong in landfills or the trucks that take them there.
Empty printer cartridges are light and small, so they are easy to recycle — if you know a place that takes them. One simple way to handle spent cartridges is to visit this Hewlett-Packard page, follow the directions to print a pre-paid shipping label and then drop the little package in the mail. The whole process takes about five minutes. Staples, Office Max, Office Depot and Walmart all accept HP ink cartridges for recycling, and Staples also accepts LaserJet cartridges. HP says cartridges returned through this program will not wind up in landfills.
Other printer companies, including Canon, and retailers such as Best Buy have recycling options as well. (Check out this Re/code article for a list of recycling options for cartridges.)