How to Responsibly Recycle E-Waste (Guide)

December 15, 2021

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How to Responsibly Recycle E-Waste

I am embarrassed to share this but…I’ve been moving a box filled with outdated electronics, wires, old iPods, and CDs for the past 5 years! The worst part is this box has remained sealed and unopened throughout each of these moves as I don’t use or need any of the electronics within it. But, a few weeks ago, I decided it was time. Time to officially declutter and organize my home and face my e-waste dilemma head on with a plan. If you’ve ever wondered, how do you responsibly recycle e-waste– how do you dispose of your old iPods, computers, cameras, or CDs– then keep reading. I answer all these questions and more in this simple step-by step guide!

Why recycle e-waste?

While recycling e-waste isn’t as “convenient” as just tossing it out with the trash for curbside pickup, it’s also not complicated. Yes, it does take a few more steps but, overall, once you know what and how to do it, you’ll realize it’s really not that difficult and the pay off for the planet is completely worth it.

The main reason I am so adamant about recycling e-waste is the benefits it has for our planet.

Did you know e-waste has become the fastest-growing waste stream in the world?

A few facts:

Recycling e-waste also allows for the recovery of precious materials such as gold, copper, glass, aluminum, and lithium. In fact, according to the EPA, “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.” When you recycle e-waste these precious materials can be returned to the supply chain and given new life. There they can be reused for the production of new products, reducing the environmental impact, minimizing hazardous materials in the environment, and generally increasing the sustainability of the production of new electronics.

How to Recycle E-Waste (Guide)

recycle e-waste


Note: Before recycling or donating your computer, make sure to wipe your hard drive clean, i.e. remove all personal data. For more information on how to protect your data check out FTCs’ step by step guide here. If you need a bit of extra support, make an appointment with the Geek Squad (Best Buy) and they can take care of wiping the hard drive for you. Schedule an appointment here


    1. If your computer still works, rather than recycling it, consider donating it. Goodwill has partnered with Dell’s Reconnect program to help you easily and responsibly recycle household electronic wares. Drop off any brand of old electronics at a participating Goodwill® and Dell will recycle it for free. Click here to see what items are accepted. 
    2. Interconnection: Interconnection is a certified Microsoft Refurbisher, and R2:2013 electronics recycler collects used electronics and refurbishes the equipment for charitable reuse. Mail in your old laptop or tablet free of charge. Plus, they’ll wipe the hard drive for you. Note: Laptops must boot up and be less than 5 years old. Click here for information on how to get your shipping label. 
    3. Computers with Causes: Donate your computer, tablet, or desktop to families in need throughout the US.  Click here to get more details on their mail-in program. 
    4. World Computer exchange: Give your used computers and other tech equipment a second life by donating them to WCE. Click here for more detail about their mail in program. Reduce the digital divide for youth in developing countries; use our global network of partnerships to enhance communities in these countries; promote the reuse of electronic equipment and its ultimate disposal in an environmentally responsible manner.


    1. Staples or Best Buy: Easiest way to recycle your computer (and computer related electronics – mouse, hard drive, webcams, tablets, keyboards, etc.) is by dropping it off at your local Staples and Best Buy. Both of these chains offer in-store, and event-based recycling options.
    2. Dell Computer Recycling Program: If you have a Dell computer, consider recycling via their mail back program. Just print a shipping label, package your computer, and drop it off at your local FedEX. For complete instructions, click here. If your computer is in good condition, consider trading it in via their trade-in program and get credit towards a new purchase.
    3. Got an Apple computer? If you’re an apple user, consider recycling your computer (or any apple electronics for that matter) via Apple’s trade-in/recycling program. Good news! If your computer is still in good condition you can earn store credit towards your next purchase. And, if your computer is past its prime, then they’ll recycle it and reuse the precious materials.


Before donating, recycling, or trading-in your cell phone, remember to remove your SIM card, wipe all personal data, and sign out of all your accounts. Most experts highly recommend performing a factory reset before donating or recycling your phone. Click here for instructions on how to back-up and wipe your phone. 



    1. Call2Recycle: Will recycle your cell phone. Click here for drop off locations in your area. 
    2. Verizon Users: If your cell phone is still in good condition, consider trading it via Verizon’s Trade-In Program
    3. Sprint’s Buy Back Program: ​​The Sprint Buyback Program allows you to sell your used devices online or at a Sprint retail location. The Sprint Buyback Program offers trade–in/account credit for many devices from other carriers.
    4. Apple Trade-In Program: Trade-in or recycle your iPhone by following the same steps as if recycling your computer (see above). 
    5. Samsung Trade In: Similar to Apple, Samsung has a cell phone Trade-In Program that allows customers to trade in an eligible device and receive an instant credit value toward the purchase of a new qualifying Galaxy device.  
    6. Best Buy and Staples will also recycle your cell phones for free.

Sell your cell phone:





Other online databases to help locate e-waste recycling facilities

  1. Find an e-Stewards Certified e-waste recycler. The e-Stewards initiative defines and promotes responsible electronics reuse and recycling best practices worldwide. Their best known for their fight against the export of illegal hazardous e-waste to developing nations. Just type in your zip code here and it will help you locate safe, ethical, and globally responsible e-waste recycling facilities.
  2. Consumer Technology Association: Use the Electronic Recycle Locator to find the closest e-waste recycling center near you, i.e. Staples, Best Buy, Office Depot, etc.
  3. Earth 911’s Recycling Database. This website is a great resource. They created an all-inclusive database to help you locate how and where to recycle everything from alkaline batteries and electronics to household appliances via your zip code.

Repair Before Buying New

We live in a world that is constantly pushing new and improved gadgets and electronics. If possible, try to make your cell phones, computers, tablets, etc. last as long as possible before buying new. In fact, a great alternative to always buying new is repairing and fixing your electronic devices.

If you’re unsure where to start, check out uBreakiFix! Their mission is to repair and fix your favorite gadgets and gizmos so you don’t always need to buy a new one. This is a great option if you recently dropped your cell phone in the toilet, dropped your tablet on the ground, or need to fix your computer screen! You can either mail-in your device or walk-in to one of their nationwide store locations. Click here to find a store location near you!

So, there you have it! Have I inspired you? Are you feeling pumped to tackle and recycle your e-waste? Let me know if you have any questions!

The Wise Consumer

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