How To Recycle Your Used Technology

Out with the old and in with the new. It’s an old adage that is more relevant today than ever before, now that the average lifespan of a smartphone is a mere two years. That means every two years Americans are throwing out their old smartphones and upgrading to a newer model. Typically these prematurely retired devices are stuffed in drawers under a tangle of mystery chargers, calculators, and cords, or haphazardly tossed in the garbage. It’s no surprise then that used electronics have quickly become the fastest growing form of waste in the world.

Currently, the United States is the world leader in electronic waste (e-waste) producing an extra million tons a year than China. Even more disheartening is the fact that over 80 percent of that e-waste is exported to Asia where it often ends up in unregulated junkyards where it is improperly handled and illegally dumped. When e-waste is crushed or shredded, it releases toxic metals, halogenated flame retardants, and other carcinogenic chemicals. Alternatively, when it’s illegally burned, it releases mercury and lead into the atmosphere, which is detrimental to the environment. Both of these forms of discarding e-waste are poisonous to the environment and anyone who comes into contact with it, making it an extremely dangerous substance to dispose of.

Fortunately, there’s another option to simply throwing away outdated and unwanted electronics and harming the environment; recycling. This includes donating old devices to programs that repair and reuse them or dropping them off at designated recycling locations to be made into new products. The following retailers and mobile carriers happily accept old devices to reuse or safely recycle.

Electronic Retailers

Staples has a trade-in program that provides Staples eCash cards for unwanted electronic devices. If a device no longer holds value, Staples will accept and recycle it for free (up to six donations per customer per day). They take a broad range of electronics including computers, printers, GPS devices, iPods, ink cartridges, and more. A full list of accepted electronics is available on their website.

Similarly to Staples, Best Buy has a trade-in program that accepts a wide range of electronics in exchange for Best Buy eGift cards. Customers can use Best Buy’s online Trade-In Calculator to estimate the value of used devices such as cell phones, tablets, and cameras which can be dropped off in-store. However, customers are limited to three donations per day. Smaller items such as batteries and ink and toner cartridges can be easily dropped off in recycling boxes near store entrances for free. Best Buy also has an extensive recycling program that accepts a wide range of electronics regardless of brand, age, or condition. A full list of accepted electronics is available on their website.

Mobile Carriers

Sprint’s Buyback program provides credit for used cell phones. The customer simply determines the estimated value of their device on Sprint’s website, ship the device to Sprint free of charge, and receive credit on their next cell phone bill. Sprint also has an option to donate old devices to low-income high school students to fill the “Homework Gap” that significantly affects students without access to the internet.

AT&T’s Trade-In Service allows customers to trade in old devices in return for an AT&T promotion card, which can be used towards a new device. Additionally, customers can donate the value of their old cell phone to Cell Phones for Soldiers, an organization that uses funds raised from recycled devices to provide active-duty soldiers with prepaid calling cards to help them stay in touch with loved ones.

T-Mobile Trade-In Program allows customers to trade-in their old cell phones for cash, which can be used to buy a new handheld device. Alternatively, customers can simply drop off their unwanted cell phones at any T-Mobile location to be recycled for free. These donations are fixed up and sold as certified pre-owned devices, which customers can buy at a more affordable rate.

Verizon accepts used cell phone donations to fund HopeLine, a program that uses the proceeds raised from recycled devices to provide cash grants to domestic violence organizations. Verizon also donates pre-paid cell phones, which are distributed to victims and survivors of domestic violence. Anyone can print a prepaid postage stamp off of Verizon’s website to send in their electronic donations for HopeLine, free of charge.

It’s easier than ever to responsibly discard unwanted electronics. In most cases, requiring no more than a quick trip to the local mall. However, if the retailers listed above aren’t within reach, Call2Recycle can help you find your nearest recycling location.


Kali Muir is an ambitious freelance writer with a BA in Communications. She was born in Canada but has since lived in Norway, Denmark, and England. Her work experience is as diverse as her past addresses, including roles in technical communication, corporate communication, marketing, and article writing. She has experience working in varied business sectors: Oil & Gas, Engineering & Technology, Clothing & Equipment Retail, and Creative Writing. Follow Kali’s professional and personal journey at, or connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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