How To Dispose of Your Old Electronics

by Emma Jefelt, on Sep 23, 2023

Even though we take good care of our electronics like smartphones and laptops, there's an inevitable reality: time passes and our beloved devices become obsolete, break down and eventually require replacement. But what do you do with your old electronics when it's time to upgrade? The answer has to be sustainable recycling, renewal and, as a last resort, proper disposal. Here's how to reuse, recycle or throw away your old electronics.

damaged samsung smarphone

Why is it important to recycle electronics?

Before we dive into how you can recycle or dispose of your old electronics, let's take a look at why it's so important. Electronics are full of valuable materials, but they also contain potentially hazardous substances like lead and mercury. If these substances leak into the environment, it can have serious consequences for our planet and our health.

Recycling electronics helps reduce electronic waste (e-waste) and minimises the need to constantly extract new resources to produce new products. It also saves energy, as recycling metals and plastics is far less energy intensive than mining and manufacturing them from scratch. So when you recycle your old electronic devices, you're doing your part to help protect the environment.

How to recycle your old electronics

1. Investigate the possibilities for recycling:

Start by checking if there is a store or organisation in your area that offers a recycling scheme. Many major electronics brands and retailers have established programmes that make it easy to return old devices for recycling. This is a great way to ensure that your old electronics can have a whole new life or be part of a circular economy where parts can be used to repair other devices. Plus, you can often get some money in exchange for your old devices, so it's good for you and the environment.

An amazing resource we have in Ireland is WEEE Ireland. This is Ireland’s answer for managing the waste from electronics and electronic equipment. WEEE Ireland works with over 8,000 retailers throughout Ireland who collect old electronics and give them to WEEE in order to recycle them responsibly. This is a free service, and you can drop your devices at any time during opening hours.

2. Donate or sell them:

If your old electronics still work well, consider donating them to charitable organisations or selling them. There's always someone who can benefit from used electronics, even if they no longer suit your needs. Of course, please make sure firstly to remove any of your data and restore the device to factory settings.

This also applies to family members. Many of us have older parents, younger children, friends, colleagues or nephews/nieces who would be delighted with a model that’s that little but older. This is a great option instead of having your device in a drawer or disposing it incorrectly.

If your device no longer works, thus cannot be donated, it could still be sold for parts. Check out local repair stores to gauge interest. This can make you some money, whilst also meaning as much of the device as possible gets to live on.

If you are a business, you can also look at selling your devices to companies such as refurbed via our refurbed Business platform. You can see the benefits of refurbished technology when it comes to sustainability on refurbed’s sustainability webpage.

3. Rethink your needs

It might be a good idea to rethink your need for new electronics before you even get to the point of throwing away your smartphone or laptop. Our electronics consumption is growing so fast that e-waste is now considered the fastest growing waste stream in the world. Also, just one iPhone requires approximately 13,000 litres of water and valuable natural resources such as gold, silver and copper to produce, while the production itself emits over 70 kilos of CO₂. So, if your device is fine, you may also want to consider getting another year or two out of it before parting with it. Not only can this be the wise choice for our environment, but it can also be such for your pocket.

How do you dispose electronics?

If your electronics are no longer usable and recycling is not an option, make sure you dispose of them properly. The Global E-Waste Statistics Partnership estimates that 50 tonnes of mercury end up in the environment every year from the incineration of electronics alone. Here's how to avoid contributing to the problem:

1. Find an e-waste collection point:

Search for e-waste collection points in your area, such as the aforementioned WEEE Ireland! There are also organisations that occasionally hold collections, set up stations or partner with other companies so you can drop off your electronics and they will make sure they are handled properly.

2. Follow the advice in your local area:

Depending on where you live in the country, there may be differences in how you should drop off or dispose of your electronics. Some municipalities have a scheme where you can drop off or have small electronics picked up. At recycling centres, there may also be some differences in how you sort small electronics, such as a smartphone or kitchen appliance, and large electronic waste, such as a refrigerator or washing machine. You can always ask at the recycling centre or call your municipality if you are unsure.

3. Find local recycling centres:

It can be complicated to dispose of electronics when they are no longer salvageable for reuse or recycling, but your old smartphone or blender should never go straight into the rubbish bin or residual waste. Most local recycling centres have a place where you can drop off your electronics. Here, your old devices can be dismantled and the materials recycled or disposed of properly.

Recycling or properly disposing of your old electronic devices is an important part of taking responsibility for our planet. By following these tips and steps, you can help care for the environment, reduce electronic waste and ensure that the valuable materials of electronics are recycled. So the next time you upgrade your smartphone or laptop, remember to think about how best to reuse, recycle or dispose of your old device.

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