Chances are good there’s a junk drawer somewhere in your house, and amid the orphan screws, gnarled rubber bands and expired coupons, there are probably some old electronics you’re never going to use again. You should definitely get rid of these, but! don’t just throw them in the trash. Their parts can often be salvaged and recycled for the rare materials used in their manufacture—materials which are typically also not very environmentally friendly. Instead of trashing them, check out our guide to how to recycle your phone, power bank or laptop in a safe and green fashion.
Wipe your HD!
Before you recycle your phone or laptop (or anything else that might contain personal information), make sure you thoroughly wipe its hard-drive. A simple factory reset won’t do the job; for the most part this only deletes the addresses where your data is stored, rather than the data itself. There are apps that can do the work of retrieving this data if you deleted something important in a fit of pique—or help scavengers harvest the data you thought safely disposed of.
The process of safely and thoroughly wiping your HD will vary based on the device and OS you’re using. We’d recommend searching the best approach for your setup.
Can you donate the device?
Users often move on from their devices while they’re still quite functional. Let’s go back to the three Rs many of us remember from elementary school: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. There are thousands of nonprofit groups around the world dedicated to finding new homes for unwanted hardware. If you’re recycling your phone or power bank while it could still be helpful to others, try reaching out to your local community center, YMCA or library to see if they have any current programs for recycling gently-used electronics.
Recycle your phone the green way
Okay, your device is bricked or so absurdly out of date you’d need a Rosetta stone to communicate with it. We hope you’ve had a good run, a chance to share some last memories, maybe went on one more trip to your favorite places together. But it’s time to move on. In North America at least, devices like power banks, computers and smartphones are designated as e-waste. Some cities will pick them up with the rest of your trash, although they often stipulate that e-waste be curbed separately from general waste.
If your city does not offer roadside e-waste pickup, or you have enough of it to be considered “bulk” disposal, you are likely not far from an approved e-waste recycling location. Big box electronic stores like Best Buy and Staples usually have an e-waste bin, as will municipal dumps or recycling facilities.
It is worth noting that rules for disposing of batteries will vary by municipality—if you’re in a city, call the City’s information line or investigate their website for more specific details.
Make a Weird Art Project
Every shattered screen is an opportunity, for an artist anyway. Printmaker Sam Hodges offers a unique way to recycle your phone in this Telegraph story. When a screen fractures, the webbing of cracks is random and impossible to recreate: as are the personal circumstances that led to the break. Hodges turned these destroyed screens into ghostly prints.
Next time you’re at the museum, make note of how much art is created from digital ephemera—maybe your grotesquely bloated LiPo battery could be the next readymade masterpiece!
Onward and Upward
If you’re iffy on whether it’s time to upgrade your phone, take a minute to check out our recent guide on the subject! On the other hand, if you’re sure it’s time to recycle your phone, we hope this post has helped.