Don’t need that iPhone from 2014 anymore? Offload outdated technology with these tips

In most American homes, there is a junk drawer that has been turned into a no-man’s-land for forgotten items. They’re usually full of doodads like loose rubber bands and fast food menus as well as – increasingly – abandoned electronics.

There are old cables and wires that connect to who-knows-what and old or inoperable cell phones that have been saved for no real reason.

After all, American households own a total of 22 connected devices on average, according to a 2022 survey from financial advisory and advisory firm Deloitte.

But these graveyards of electronics don’t have to languish in dusty kitchen drawers or dusty shoe boxes under our beds. There are plenty of options in the Twin Cities and across Minnesota for ridding yourself of those forgotten appliances in easy — and environmentally friendly — ways.

Here are some ways to clear your home of unused technology:

Don’t just throw it away!

In Minnesota, it is illegal to dispose of any electronics that contain a cathode ray tube or mercury. Cathode and mercury ray tubes are found in a variety of computer monitors, laptops, and television screens. It is also illegal to throw rechargeable batteries and products with rechargeable batteries in the trash.

said Maria Jensen, an environmental health and safety expert at Repowered, one of the largest e-waste collectors in Minnesota.

In addition, there is the possibility of reusing some precious metals or other electronic parts.

According to a pilot study by Jensen and other researchers published in March, more than 266 million pounds of e-waste is available for recycling in Minnesota each year with 78 million pounds of it consisting of precious metals, which could generate $2.8 billion annually. Recycling or refurbishing all of the state’s electronic waste could create more than 3,000 jobs, according to the survey.

keep it alive

Before you retire your old machine, consider whether it’s truly out of use.

“Use your device for as long as possible,” said Amanda Cotton, e-waste program coordinator for the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA).

She said consumers don’t always need to quickly switch to the latest iPhone when their old phone still works. People can also give their old devices to kids or maybe to old people. Or if you really want a different device, consider buying a refurbished one to help out the circular economy. National retailers like Best Buy, for example, offer up to 50% off electronics that have been refurbished and performance-tested.

Electronics repair stores can also restore many electronics, whether it’s to fix a cracked screen or install a better battery. People should also contact the manufacturers about warranties or insurance policies for the devices if something breaks.

People can sell their used electronics to pawn shops, video game stores, and other specialty electronics stores. Many people also choose to sell their electronic devices online themselves via options such as Facebook Marketplace, although people should approach this latter option with a grain of salt and use caution when making the exchange.

You can also donate old electronics to nonprofit organizations, including goodwill and cell phones for soldiers.

Find a place to recycle

Many electronic devices are recyclable, including well-known items such as laptops, printers, and televisions. Customers can also recycle items such as docking stations, video and audio cards, as well as charging cords.

Contact your city or county hazardous waste location for recycling options. Call and confirm what electronics they accept and what fees – if any – apply. There is a drop fee due to the complexity and cost of disassembling and transporting some items. The MPCA has a list of registered collection sites by county, which includes private companies.

If a garbage collector offers to move something for free, Cotton said, that’s usually a red flag that they don’t plan on disposing of it properly.

“The cheapest thing for them to do is get rid of them,” Jensen said.

Repowered operates a large collection and recycling facility off Vandalia Street on the outskirts of St. Paul’s Hamline-Midway. Sorts items and repairs on site everything that is repairable. Repowered sends what’s left to another facility that shreds the material before it can then be taken to a smelter to extract the precious metals for reuse.

“People can just show up at our facility … and drop anything with a wire, battery, or circuit board on it,” Jensen said.

Some of the few items that cannot be re-powered are freezers and refrigerators.

About 10% of what the facility collects is refurbished and may be sold at Repowered’s on-site used electronics store. Some electronic devices that are more complex to recycle, such as a printer or microwave, may require a fee. But Repowered is Ramsey County’s official e-waste collection partner, making it free for county residents to recycle most items at the Vandalia facility.

Repowered also has a smaller location in Golden Valley.

Besides going to a collection site, cities and counties also hold collection events, such as spring or fall clean-ups, that are announced through the mail or found on community calendars.

Protect your privacy

For data on old electronic devices that are being recycled or refurbished, Cotton said, consider resetting or wiping your devices before you drop them.

Large recyclers like Repowered, whose data destruction process involves electronic erasure or physical destruction, are transparent about how the data on the devices they receive is destroyed. But do your own research and ask recyclers how they handle the process.

You can also look for a recycler with third party data security certifications such as R2 Responsible Recycling and NAID AAA certification.

Go to the source

Where you bought your electronic device may be the answer to where you dumped it.

Amazon, for example, allows devices to be exchanged for a gift card if you plan to upgrade to a newer model. It also runs a recycling program where you can mail your unwanted items. The e-retailer even offers to drop off used batteries.

Richfield-based Best Buy, the country’s largest retail electronic waste collector, has helped customers recycle £2.7 billion worth of electronics and appliances since 2009. Customers can have up to three electronics delivered per home per day in stores Best Buy. Some items come with a recycling fee, like flat screen TVs, which cost about $30 each to recycle. Best Buy also has an exchange program, offering gift cards for items that still have value, like a fairly recent iPhone model.

In 2022, Best Buy is launching a stand-alone haulage service to pick up and recycle up to two large products — like major appliances and computers — for $199.99. This was in addition to the $39.99 Best Buy long haul offered with the purchase and delivery of a replacement product.

Last month, Best Buy launched a new recycling service where customers can request a recycling bin for prepaid Best Buy technology and have old electronics shipped through the mail. The boxes come in a small size that can hold up to 6 pounds for $22.99 or a medium size that holds up to 15 pounds for $29.99.

“It’s just another way for us to reach customers wherever they are,” said Tim Dunn, head of environmental sustainability at Best Buy. “If they don’t have the convenience of a Best Buy nearby, and they probably don’t have those big things that we come and pick up at their house, but they do have a lot of little things…we’re bringing…another option for our customers.”

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