Recycling Your Electronics

Finding new, green uses for your old gear


Chris Egner

Chris Egner is a former writer for Crutchfield. She concentrated on point-and-shoot cameras and speakers while she worked here.

More from Chris Egner

Upgrading your home theater with a gorgeous flat-panel HDTV or treating yourself to a new car stereo is a ton of fun. But what happens to your old gear when you no longer want it?

One dilemma we face as a high-tech society trying to protect our fragile planet is what to do with electronic waste. Discarded electronic devices contain potentially toxic elements like lead and mercury, which can leach from a landfill, seep into groundwater, and end up doing us harm. Not to mention that the mountains of glass, plastic, and metal only grow taller with each TV and computer we drop off at the dump.

In this article, we'll suggest some eco-friendly alternatives to throwing your old gear away. We'll also point you towards some helpful resources, like organizations that actually want your cast-off electronics. And we'll link you to some websites that can help you with electronics recycling, or "eCycling."

old TV to new TV Getting a new TV? Read on to find out what to do with your old one.

Re-use: find a new place or purpose for your old electronics

Your first option for dealing with old gear should be finding a way to re-use it. Extending the life of your electronic equipment conserves resources and keeps potentially dangerous components out of landfills.

Keep your gear in the family.  If your new gear is simply replacing some older,but still functioning gear, you may still find a use for it at home.

digital TV transition Recycling is just one option for getting rid of old gear. If it still works, why not find a way to re-use it?

Trade for something you want. Freecycle has a running list of free items that people in your area either want to give away or want to receive.

Give working gear to charity. Many charitable organizations accept donations of electronics, and in turn offer them to needy recipients. Some groups refurbish old equipment before they give it to people who can use it. And when you donate your old gear, remember to ask for a receipt — then use it for a deduction at tax time.

Sell your gear. Local newspapers and bulletin boards are a great place to find buyers.

Turn your gear into a Crutchfield gift card. Crutchfield partners with CExchange (Consumer Electronics Exchange) to let you exchange unwanted electronics for our online gift certificates. It's simple to earn credit — click here to get an appraisal of your item's value, print out the prepaid mailing label, and send in your gear. You'll be reimbursed with a gift card that you can spend on new Crutchfield products.

landfill Recycling your old electronics helps keep toxins out of landfills.

Recycle: salvage valuable materials and help preserve the earth

Your second eco-friendly option for getting rid of old electronics is to recycle them. Even when you're sure your gear has reached the end of the road, it probably still holds some value. Many electronics contain recyclable materials — like glass, plastic, copper wiring, and precious metals — that can be used again. If you're unsure of where to recycle electronics locally, you can find lots of links and resources on EPA eCycling, the Environmental Protection Agency's site.

Make use of manufacturer recycling efforts. Many electronics manufacturers offer programs to make it easy for consumers to recycle. You can do a simple online search to learn about the eCycling policies of your favorite brands.

  • Sony will accept any of its products at participating centers and recycle them for free. Samsung also provides this service, free of charge with Samsung electronics and for a nominal fee with non-Samsung products.
  • Panasonic, Sharp Electronics, and Toshiba teamed up to form the Electronic Manufacturers Recycling Management Corporation, which holds electronics collection and recycling events around the country.
  • Many computer manufacturers like Apple, Dell, and Hewlett-Packard have eCycling policies that help you turn in your unwanted computer equipment when you buy new gear.

Protect yourself from identity theft. Use caution when you donate, sell, or recycle your computer, cell phone, or any other electronic device that contains personal information, like credit card numbers and passwords. Erase your personal files first. In this age of identity theft, there are plenty of data destruction companies and free downloads dedicated to overwriting data on your hard drive. For secure recycling, donation or trade-in of your cell phone you may want to explore Recellular.

What are your ideas?

Hopefully, we've given you some good ideas for handling the electronic gear you no longer need. You can also read more about Crutchfield and the environment. And we'd love to hear your thoughts and tips on eCycling — write to us at or leave a comment below.

  • Roger from Arizona

    Posted on 5/8/2015 10:24:03 AM

    Good information. Thanks.

  • Gene Meyer from Aurora CO

    Posted on 6/29/2015 1:05:48 PM

    What do I do with an old HP printer?

  • Jeff Miller from Crutchfield

    Posted on 6/29/2015 2:31:55 PM

    Gene, Check the EPA site for the e-cycling center closest to you.

  • shood

    Posted on 7/16/2015 7:51:58 AM

    This is a great idea!

  • James F. Pasquini from Coeymans, NY

    Posted on 7/16/2015 8:34:38 AM

    After being in the TV/Radio repair business for many years, I had some old test equipment as well as "new" (unused) vacuum tubes and parts left. Some of the vacuum tubes and parts I donated to somebody halfway across the country who was getting into Ham Radio and wanted to build a transmitter. Some other vacuum tubes and tube tester will be donated to the USS Slater (Destroyer Escort) that is still being refurbished in Albany, NY. They've rebuilt/are rebuilding their WWII radio and as with vacuum tubes, they'll need to be replaced sooner or later again. Some other parts I used to build a "sights & sound" toy for my granddaughters (colored lights, bells, buzzer, push button and toggle switches, etc.). Little by little I'm getting rid of unwanted electronic parts without them going to the landfill. To Gene Meyer from Aurora CO: Go to the HP website and check out their recycling policy. They'll probably send you a mailing label. Staples will accept old printers for money off when buying a new one. They'll even take old printers for recycling even if you're not in the market for a new one. If the printer still works, you can always list it on Craig's List for sale or free to the first responder who will come and pick it up! Good luck.

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