What to do with old and outdated electronics

August 31, 2020

By Kirsten Queen

E-waste, or electronic waste from computers, smartphones, tablets, and other devices, is discarded at increasing rates across the United States and the world. In 2019, a record 53.6 million metric tons, roughly equal to 59 million US tons, of e-waste was generated worldwide. Only 17.4% of that waste was recycled.

While some of the materials used in e-waste are health hazards, like lead and mercury that can leech into groundwater, others are incredibly valuable, like gold and copper. Recycling our e-waste is not only in the best interests of environmental and human health, but also economically sound. 

According to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), e-waste and electronic equipment include products with electronic components that include a battery or power supply. That includes items like: 

  • Refrigerators, freezers, air conditioners, and heat pumps
  • Televisions
  • Computers and laptops
  • Monitors
  • DVD and Blu-Ray players
  • Tablets and smartphones
  • Lamps
  • Washing machines dryers, dishwashers, electric stoves
  • Printers and copiers
  • Vacuum cleaners, microwaves, and many other household devices
  • Routers and modems

We use electronic equipment on a daily basis in our homes, offices, and leisure activities. With 5G on the horizon, 67% of US consumers will likely upgrade to new mobile devices over the next couple of years. Plus, we’re seeing an influx of smart home devices that will replace traditional refrigerators and other electronics. To prevent those old devices from ending up in the landfill, which pollutes our environment (and is often illegal), what can we do with our outdated electronics?

Start by checking your local area for any e-waste recycling facilities. Be sure to make sure that the facility you are recycling at is certified. And remember, never throw any electronics in the trash. When you’re ready to say goodbye to your devices, it’s a good idea to wipe any personal data off computers and smartphones.


The best way to avoid e-waste is to repair and reuse old devices. Many electronics manufacturers provide warranties for products, so check this list at Greener Gadgets first to see if your device can be repaired. Repairs are often cheaper than replacements and add longevity to your devices.


Many organizations would be happy to take your e-waste off your hands. 

  • Here at CenturyLink, we’ve been a longtime partner with PCs for People, a nonprofit providing affordable access to technology through the reuse of professionally refurbished computers. We’ve recycled 300 computers and 1000+ pounds of e-waste with PCs for People.
  • Goodwill also accepts old electronic items in a partnership with Dell called Reconnect. You can find a participating Goodwill location here.
  • Human-I-T is an organization that takes in unwanted technology and repairs it for low-income individuals and nonprofits.
  • The World Computer Exchange fosters digital literacy developing countries by repurposing old computers and other devices. 


Wondering where to recycle your electronics? Fortunately, you have lots of options. Try checking with the manufacturer of the product, as many accept old devices and will recycle them for you for free. You can see a full list here. Some even offer credit for a new device in exchange for your old device, including Apple and Amazon. You can also go to your local Best Buy to find robust recycling programs for e-waste. 

Other ways to recycle:

  • Terracycle offers free electronic recycling plus fundraising opportunities for participants.
  • Recycle used batteries with Call2Recycle. By partnering with local retailers and government municipalities, Call2Recycle offers many locations to drop off used batteries, including rechargeable ones.
  • ecoATM allows you to sell or recycle your smartphone through a convenient kiosk, located at some Walmart and Kroger locations.
  • Find recycling locations through Greener Gadgets.

E-waste is a growing concern for many countries. By repairing, donating, and recycling your old and unused electronics, you can help make a difference in how much of it is produced every day. We hope you’ll join us in taking steps to sort out discarded technology and recycle it properly. With a little time and care, we can help keep ourselves, our environment, and our global neighbors safer and healthier.

This blog is provided for informational purposes only and may require additional research and substantiation by the end user. In addition, the information is provided "as is" without any warranty or condition of any kind, either express or implied. Use of this information is at the end user's own risk. CenturyLink does not warrant that the information will meet the end user's requirements or that the implementation or usage of this information will result in the desired outcome of the end user.


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