Environmental Responsibility Series Part 1: What To Do With Old Electronics

Electronic recycling should be on everyone’s radar, but in case you’re behind the curve, this blog is especially for you! We believe strongly in the power of doing our individual and corporate part to recycle electronics and are happy to provide resources for how your business can be doing the same. 

Let’s start by answering four important questions: 

#1- WHY should I recycle my electronics?

The effect of e-waste on the environment is an ongoing challenge. Recycling your e-waste is a critical component of environmental health. 

There are many perks to proper recycling that go beyond saving the planet (though that’s a noble reason in and of itself!). Proper recycling and disposal of business or personal electronics can also prevent identity theft. Ever think about all that information on your different electronic devices? When you toss it in the normal trash, that information doesn’t get wiped–it’s out in the world for someone to discover. You need to ensure you both properly destroy sensitive data and recycle your electronic devices. In Arizona, you may be committing a civil violation per ARS 44-7601 if you do not properly destroy storage devices with personally identifiable information on it. 

Some retailers offer free recycling or trade-in credit for old devices. At places like Apple, you can earn 10% off a new device for turning in your old one for proper recycling. Win-win, right? 

#2- WHAT can I recycle?

Great question. Here’s a list of electronics that can be recycled in the state of Arizona: 

  • Servers
  • Computer Towers
  • Laptops
  • LCD Flat Screen Monitors
  • Printers
  • Print Cartridges
  • Hard Drives
  • CD ROM/Floppy Drives
  • Laptop Batteries
  • Battery Back-Up Units (UPS)
  • All Accessories
  • Switches
  • Routers
  • Patch Panels
  • Tablets
  • Cell Phones
  • LCD Flat-Screen TV’s
  • DVD Blu-Ray Players
  • Amplifiers
  • Audio Equipment
  • Modems
  • Server Racks
  • iPhones
  • Smart Phones
  • AC Adapters
  • Android Phones
  • Cables & Connections
  • Telephones – VOIP & Analog
  • Phone Systems
  • Copiers
  • Fax Machines
  • Shredders
  • Speakers & Microphones
  • Video Cameras
  • DVR’s – DirectTV, TIVO
  • VCR’s
  • Satellite Receivers

#3- WHERE can I recycle electronics?

Drop at Local Retailers 

  • Staples: If you’re looking for one location to recycle your gadgets responsibly, Staples stores now accept any type of electronic device (except TVs) for proper recycling. Be aware: They charge a $10 fee for each large item in order to cover shipping costs and labor, though the price is nominal compared to what similar services cost.
  • Best Buy: You can recycle up to three items per household per day (see categories here for state-specific info and different limitations on TVs, computer monitors, and laptops). 

Trade-in Your Devices

  • Some retailers offer discounts on new equipment if you trade in your old electronics for recycling. For example, Apple retail stores accept broken iPods; shoppers receive a 10% discount on a new device, plus the feel-good knowledge that Apple recycles 90 percent (by weight) of old electronics. Just make sure you’ve wiped any of your devices clean of sensitive data (or verify the Apple store will do it for you).

Donate for Re-Use

  • There are countless opportunities for secondary uses of still functional electronic devices. Reach out to local schools or nonprofit organizations to see if they need the devices you’re looking to offload. In this scenario, make sure you properly wipe your devices before donating.

Hire a Professional Service

  • No matter where you are located, a simple Google search “what to do with my old electronics” will produce local companies that provide services for properly recycling your electronics. Be on the lookout for companies that follow state and Federal regulations and guidelines for recycling e-waste responsibly. You will pay a fee, so that you may prefer our more cost-effective recommendations in place of this option.
  • If you’re located in the Greater Phoenix Area, this company provides recycling services for large companies, small businesses, government agencies, schools, and residential. 

#4 – HOW do I destroy sensitive information inside of my electronics? 

Cell Phones and Tablets:

  • Perform a factory reset; here’s a guide for Android and iPhone

Desktops and Servers:

  • The safest way is to pull the hard drive(s) out and crush them with a tool built for drive destruction. Here’s what we use in a related blog: How To Destroy Your Computer’s Hard Drive
  • It would be best if you worked with your IT Company to find a solution. For our clients, we include pulling the drives out of all old devices and crushing them. We quarterly give a box of crushed drives to a local electronic recycling company. 
  • If you’re a consumer, ask whoever you’re using for recycling if they perform secure drive destruction. It may be an additional fee. If they take your device(s) containing sensitive data, and you’re not receiving any confirmation of its secure destruction, this is a gamble. For example, police recycled their copier machines (with hard drives in them), and people bought them at auction and discovered police records on them! Link. If you can’t confirm your data will be securely destroyed, pull out your hard drive and keep it somewhere safe until you can find someone to destroy it securely. 

The Negatives of Not Recycling Properly 

So why does all of this matter? There are many negatives to improperly disposing of old electronics. Here are a few to grab your attention: 

1. Pollution

Devices like computers contain toxic metals like lead, cadmium, and mercury. If discarded in improperly managed landfills, the metals can end in the ground of the surrounding dumpsite. Resulting pollution can affect groundwater and cause major environmental problems. 

2. Missed Opportunity for Re-Use of Bi-parts

Electronic infrastructures most often contain valuable metals such as gold, copper, and platinum. Throwing electronics away forces manufacturers to expend energy and resources to find raw materials for new products. 

3. Missed Opportunity for Device Re-Use

Many consumers get a new device for the holidays and immediately throw out their old one, even if it’s still working. This practice denies the benefits of technology to secondary users such as schools, nonprofit organizations, small businesses, or students.

4. Possibly Illegal

ARS 44-7601 states an entity shall not knowingly discard or dispose of records or documents without redacting the information or destroying the records or documents. We recommend working with an IT Company that is aware of AZ law and has a solution for securely destroying your sensitive data. 

Please contact us if you have any questions.