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Reusing, donating and recycling electronics

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Preventing waste in the first place is preferable to any waste management option...including recycling.

Donating used (but still operating) electronics for reuse extends the lives of valuable products and keeps them out of the waste stream for a longer period of time.

Reuse, in addition to being an environmentally preferable alternative, also benefits society. By donating your used electronics, you allow schools, nonprofit organizations, and lower-income families to obtain equipment that they otherwise could not afford.

Click here for organizations with information about donating electronic equipment.

Before donating your computer or other electronics, make sure the equipment is reusable. Donation organizations have limited or in many cases no resources and employees to diagnose and repair hardware. A functional, working system—especially with monitor, wiring, and software licenses—is a lot more useful and requires less upgrading than a nonworking, incomplete computer.

Check to see what the donation organization's minimum computer requirements are (e.g., Pentium processor, Windows 95). Donation organizations might not accept (or might charge a fee for) older, less useful equipment (e.g., 386 processors, dot matrix printers, less than 14 inch color monitors).

The most appropriate donation organization for computers can vary from area to area. In some cases, the most viable donation organization might be a charity, but in other areas, the appropriate donation organization might be the local school district or materials exchange.

If donation for reuse or repair is not a viable option, households and businesses can send their used electronics for recycling.

Recyclers recover more than 100 million pounds of materials from electronics each year. Recycling electronics helps reduce pollution that would be generated while manufacturing a new product and the need to extract valuable and limited virgin resources. It also reduces the energy used in new product manufacturing.

One thousand or more municipalities offer computer and electronics collections as part of household hazardous waste collections, special events, or other arrangements.

In addition, public and private organizations have emerged that accept computers and other electronics for recycling. Depending on where you live and the amount of equipment you have, the best recycling option might be a county recycling drop-off center, TV repair shop, charitable organization, electronics recycling company, or even your local electronics retailer, which might collect used products and send them to a recycler.

Many electronics manufacturers are accepting used household electronics for recycling. In some cases, these services are provided free-of-charge. Asset management and recovery programs have been available to major corporations and large purchasers of electronic equipment for quite some time. Now, electronics manufacturers are beginning to offer similar services for households and small businesses. The consumer pays to mail the product back. Fees keep changing, but generally range from seven dollars up. Some manufacturers and retailers are offering free or for-a-fee events in communities.

*DISCLAIMER*: The information contained in or provided through this site section is intended for general consumer understanding and education only and is not intended to be and is not a substitute for professional advice. Use of this site section and any information contained on or provided through this site section is at your own risk and any information contained on or provided through this site section is provided on an "as is" basis without any representations or warranties.