we become more technologically advanced, we are accumulating a great deal of electronic waste on our planet. Our waste electronics can lead to the pollution of our soil, air, and water when they break down in a landfill or are burned in an incinerator¹. If these devices are not recovered, we also miss out on opportunities to reuse some of their components that can be recycled into new things, such as precious metals.
With a growing public awareness of these negative impacts of the improper disposal of electronic devices, many people are now recycling them. While recycling our defunct electronic devices is certainly better than just throwing them in the trash, it is possible to give these devices a much longer lifespan before they are recycled. This embraces the reuse philosophy that is part of the Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle lifestyle.
The following are just a few of the many ways that you can reuse (or help others to reuse) your old electronics.
- UpCycle Them
If hook up new speakers to your old iPod or MP3 player and you will have created an inexpensive home stereo system for yourself. These players can also be used as multimedia storage device to download movies, pictures, music videos or slideshows, and all that you should need is an audio/video cable to hook them up to your television³.
Unless it is very broken down or substantially out-of-date, you should be able to stream online movies and music from YouTube, Hulu, and Netflix using an older computer. However, you may need to add a few upgrades to it such as a faster video card and some additional RAM for proficient downloading capability⁴.
Your old cell phone can be repurposed into an emergency-only device. Even without a SIM card, as long as you have a viable battery, you can use a cell phone to call an emergency phone number such as 911².
Using the “enable disk use” box in iTunes will allow you to use an old iPod as an extra portable hard drive, and many other media players will support USB mass storage where you can drag and drop files and save them just like with any other external drive⁴.
And, why not reuse your old phone when you are traveling or in another situation in which you don’t want to worry about damaging your new one? You can easily swap out your SIM card between your phones and choose which one best suits your situation².
Other reuses of electronic devices may require more involvement and knowledge. Some reuse ideas include converting:
- An old coffee pot into a fish bowl⁵
- An old blender into a tabletop lamp⁵
- An old VCR into an automatic pet feeder⁵
- An old laptop as a second hand screen for tasks such as conducting research and doing graphic design³
- An old computer as a dedicated audio music player⁴
And, for the most tech-savvy individuals among us:
Old Webcams Can be Used as a Basic Security System. While this option does not offer nearly the level of protection as a full security system would, you can use an old webcam with certain computer programs to detect when the motor detection feature of the camera is tripped. The programs can send you email alerts, or some programs even offer the option to check your home from a remote location while you are away⁴.
Other tech-savvy upcycling options include turning an old PDA (such as a Palm Pilot) into a musical instrument, using a cell phone as a remote starter for your car, and even turning your old cell phone into a robot²,⁴!
- Make them into Art
- Give Them to Others
- Charity Donations
- Sell Them
- Trade them in for gift cards
- Recycle at the end of device life
As you can see, there are many ways to reuse your devices before they need to be recycled. Be sure to consider many of these options and others when you are thinking about getting rid of your electronics.