February 13, 2016 Recycling Written by Greentumble
What to Do With Old Electronics
It is now becoming clearer than ever that as

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 incinerator [1].

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.

Ways to reuse your old electronics

UpCycle them

Without much tinkering, you can easily reuse your older electronic devices for other purposes.

For instance, you can use an old Android or similar device as just an audio player or a gaming device, and any smart phone can be used as an alarm clock or Skype phone.

An outdated tablet device or laptop could be used as a digital photo frame, and an old computer’s hard drive could be used as an external portable hard drive or an extra backup option for a new computer.

An old cell phone with a camera function could also be used to take pictures [1,2].

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 television [3].

Unless it is very broken down or substantially out-of-date, you should be able to stream online movies and music from YouTube, Hulu, and Netflix using an older computer.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 capability [4].

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 911 [2].

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 drive [4].

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 situation [2].

Other reuses of electronic devices may require more involvement and knowledge. Some reuse ideas include converting:

  • An old coffee pot into a fish bowl
  • An old blender into a tabletop lamp
  • An old VCR into an automatic pet feeder
  • An old laptop as a second hand screen for tasks such as conducting research and doing graphic design
  • An old computer as a dedicated audio music player [3,4,5]


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 away [4].

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 robot [2,4]!


Make them into art

If you are creative, almost anything can be turned into art, including old electronics.

Give them to others

Offer your old devices to family members or friends, or post an advertisement on Craigslist or Freecycle.org.

Sites like these, as well as eBay also provide opportunities for people who love to fix and refurbish electronics [3].

Charity donations

There are many places who accept old computers and other electronic devices to fix them up. After the electronics are fixed, they give the devices to schools and other organizations that need them.

Sell them

Ebay and many other sites such as BuyBack World will purchase and then resell used electronics as refurbished models.

Trade them in for gift cards

Some companies, such as Amazon and Best Buy will offer you gift cards to trade-in your old electronics.

Recycle at the end of device life

If your electronic device truly has no options remaining for reuse or upcycling, it may be necessary to recycle it. When you do recycle your device, be sure that it goes to a reputable recycler.

Many cities and other local and national government agencies offer good electronic recycling options, and some countries now require that stores that sell electronics take them back.


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.



[1] http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/7-things-you-can-do-with-your-old-electronic-devices/
[2] http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/8-creative-ideas-recycle-mobile-phone-throwing/
[3] http://inhabitat.com/electronics-recycling-101-tips-to-repurpose-old-electronics/
[4] http://mashable.com/2010/04/28/repurpose-electronics/
[5] http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/recycling-reusing/repurpose-electronics-7-ideas/