Recycling Tech: Your Old Phone May Help Pay for Your New Phone

Recycling old tech extends beyond laptops and cell phones and can get you serious discounts or cash for the new devices you’ve been wanting.
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If you’re like us, you’ll use your laptop, phone, and even that temperamental printer in the corner until the device finally dies. But what do you do with it after it’s gone offline for the last time?

Recycling your old tech can fetch discounts from popular retailers or even help provide much-needed cell phones for soldiers, older Americans, and survivors of domestic abuse. Whether you’re trying to clear out the junk or ready to trade in a still-usable device, there are ways to recycle these devices so they don’t just end up in landfills.

In this article
What old devices can I recycle?
How to recycle old tech
What to do before recycling your old devices
Best practices for new tech
Recycling tech FAQs
Bottom line

What old devices can I recycle?

Surprisingly, you can recycle most of your old tech. TVs, laptops, tablets, mobile phones, batteries, ink cartridges, smartwatches, printers, speakers, headphones, and basically any other device you can think of can be recycled.

Apple claims its 13-inch Macbook Air is made of 40% recycled materials, which could potentially be taken from previous devices. Companies like Staples and Best Buy accept these items and often will give you a credit toward the purchase of a new device if you recycle with them.

Other devices you may not have known can be recycled:

Computer accessories Home entertainment Miscellaneous
  • Adapters and hubs
  • Webcams
  • Small servers
  • Printers and multifunction devices
  • Routers and modems
  • Scanners
  • Monitors (CRT, LED/LCD, plasma)
  • Hard drives
  • Keyboards and mice
  • Flash drives
  • Video streaming devices
  • Stereo receivers
  • CD/DVD/Blu-ray discs and players
  • Gaming consoles and controllers
  • MP3 players and iPod
  • Cable/satellite receivers
  • Digital and video cameras
  • Digital projectors
  • USB and lightning cables
  • Stylus pens and Apple Pencil
  • Adapters and hubs
  • Battery backup devices
  • Calculators
  • Car and wall chargers
  • Coffee brewers (less than 40 lb.)
  • Connected home devices
  • Fax machines
  • GPS devices
  • Label makers
  • Laminators
  • Shredders

How to recycle old tech

There are several ways to recycle your old tech and devices. While the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) does offer information for recycling, places like Best Buy, Staples, and independent retailers will pay you or give you store credit if you bring them your goods. A quick internet search for recycling your specific device should yield a myriad of results to choose from to get the best deal.

Instead of recycling old tech, reusing it might be an option if you’re artistically inclined. So get creative as long as your materials are safe for you and your audience.

Donations

If your devices are still in good condition, but you’re ready to part with them, consider donating to a place like Goodwill or other thrift shops that resell to the public for discounted rates. You could also consider donating to an organization that helps others in need. There are plenty of nonprofits and other organizations that collect old phones, especially for emergency services.

The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence uses the sale of recycled electronics to help fund programs providing resources and safe havens to victims of domestic violence. Other programs like Cell Phones for Soldiers refurbish and sell your old devices, then provide military veterans with gift cards to purchase phones for themselves.

Retail stores

Most retail stores will give you some kind of discount, coupon, or credit toward a new device when you bring your old ones in for recycling. Best Buy, Staples, Apple, and other smaller retailers will either give you cash or store credit. This can be a better option than selling your device outright because they take broken equipment, too.

If you have your eye on a new device for yourself or as an upcoming holiday gift for someone else, we suggest looking around and finding the best price for that new item. Weigh the price against the credit you’ll receive for trading in old devices to find the best place to trade. Then you should gather up everything you aren’t using. No more drawers full of old cell phones — it’s time to trade those babies in and finally get that PlayStation 5.

Online

Amazon wants your devices. It doesn’t matter if you have Fire TV Sticks and tablets or a desk full of Android products, Amazon’s trade-in program wants it all. Online trading post eBay, not to be outdone by its retail peers, also offers an “instant voucher” program that gives you a voucher, which is applied to your eBay account, for the resale price of your phone.

But trading in with major retailers isn’t the only option. You can sell to smaller companies like Decluttr or ItsWorthMore, which take all types of devices, not just phones. You can also resell to other customers directly via eBay, Poshmark, Mercari, or Facebook Marketplace.

If you do use one of these sites, avoid Facebook Marketplace scams and other online scams. If someone wants to move off the platform to make a purchase, report their account to the platform and ignore their requests.

Also, if you choose to sell to another person and you’re going to meet them for the exchange, make sure it’s in a safe, public place. You can use the site SafeTradeSpots to find law enforcement agencies that offer qualified locations to complete your online transaction. [1]

What to do before recycling your old devices

If you’re going to be turning in your old tech to a retailer, donation center, or even selling it to another person, you’ll first want to wipe all your data from the device. Identity thieves have enough tactics to swindle you without getting your information directly from a hard drive or SIM card. While each device might have an elaborate form of wiping, you can always perform a factory reset which should remove all your data.

You should also search the Internet for “how to remove my data from [NAME OF DEVICE] “ to ensure that none of your private information is left over.

Before you wipe your device, however, there may be information on it that you want to keep. If you have a cloud storage plan already, you should back up your data to the cloud. You can also transfer it onto your computer’s hard drive or an external hard drive that can be plugged into multiple devices.

Pictures, financial documents, passwords, and all of your important data can be stored on password managers that offer cloud and document storage as well. The best password managers include a lot of these features and allow you to save your information in encrypted vaults.

Best practices for new tech

Once you’ve traded in all your old devices, you may be on the hunt for a new one to replace them. Make sure you’re protecting new computers, phones, tablets, and routers with antivirus software and the best VPN available so they run well for you for a long time.

You’ll also want to make sure you have all the appropriate configurations to protect your devices. A VPN-enabled router can protect every internet connection in your home, including devices like smart speakers, which typically can’t access VPNs.

Recycling tech FAQs


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What do I do with my old tech?

While you can always resell old tech, some devices are too old or defective. The best option in this case is to recycle your tech through programs that specialize in keeping it out of landfills. Whether you trade it into a retailer for credit on a new device or donate it to a nonprofit, responsibly recycling your old devices can only be a good thing.


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How do you wipe electronics for recycling?

The easiest way to wipe electronics for recycling is by performing a factory reset on the device. This should wipe all of your data from it. You can also do an internet search on how to wipe data off your particular device.


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How to get money for old tech?

You can get money for old tech by reselling it to another person or recycling it with a program that pays you for old tech. If your device won’t fetch you a decent price on sellers like eBay, Poshmark, or Mercari, you can always visit retailers like Best Buy, Staples, Apple, and Amazon for trade-in credit. If you aren’t going to donate it to a nonprofit, this is the best option for getting rid of all those devices you no longer use.

Bottom line

We’ve all seen the prices of tech skyrocketing over the past few years as resources and supply chains continue to have issues. One of the ways we can combat this is by recycling our old devices. There are plenty of options, from donations to private sales to retail swaps.

By repurposing these devices, we can help conserve resources and lower our prices on the next new gadget we purchase. Whatever you decide to do, please make sure to clear your data before you give up your device.

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Author Details
Mary lives in Los Angeles and has been a cybersecurity writer for over five years. With a B.S. in Liberal Arts from Clarion University and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Point Park University in Pittsburgh, her career in online security began in sales and content creation for a private cybersecurity firm.

Citations

[1] SafeTradeSpots