Personal Finance 

Where to Recycle or Donate Electronics

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Recycling: Cans, Bottles & PaperI’ve been cleaning out my closets and trying to get some Spring mid-Summer cleaning done and I’ve discovered a lot of old electronics equipment I no longer use. My wife jokes about how I have a computer graveyard in my closet (lots of old cases, motherboards, a stack of hard drives) and I’m moving towards recycling or donating as much of it as I can. The last thing I want to do, and the last thing anyone should do, is send electronics directly to the landfill.

Below I have listed some suggestions for places to go to recycle the items listed. In every case, I recommended doing a search on Google to find out if there are better local options than the ones I’ve listed. For example, in California you can call on YNot Recycle to come pick up electronic equipment including computers, monitors, and televisions absolutely free (Staples charges $10 and you have to bring it to them). A little searching can yield superior options than the ones I’ve listed. Look for local options because you’ll be surprised at what’s out there when you look.

Goodwill Industries

Goodwill Industries, in many areas, will pretty much take anything with a cord or a battery. Call your local Goodwill to see what they’ll take. Outside of Goodwill, or local options, here are some ideas based on electronic item.

CRT Monitors

Unfortunately, you can’t donate CRT monitors anymore because they no longer have much value given the popularity and relative inexpensiveness of LCD monitors. Your best bet is to find a place that will recycle it for free or find a local Staples and they’ll take them for a $10 fee on “large items.” They don’t specify what large means. While $10 seems like a lot, think of it as a small price to pay to reclaim some space in your house without harming the environment.


Your best option is to find a local recycling center or charity that will take your machine. If it’s a Pentium 4 or newer, a charity will likely be able to use it and take advantage of it. If it’s older, they probably won’t and you’ll have to turn to a recycling center near you. If there isn’t one nearby, you can always go to Staples and pay the $10.


Like CRTs, donating and recycling televisions is still difficult. Barring manufacturer promotions, your best bet appears to be to bring it to Staples and pay the $10 fee. Some companies, like Best Buy, will take away old televisions for free when you order one with home installation.

Cell Phones

If you can’t sell the phone on eBay, consider donating it to a worthy cause. I recently donated an old Samsung to Cell Phones for Soldiers. They make it really easy to donate a cell phone, just print out a pre-paid shipping label (or pay for shipping), slap it on your package and drop it in the mail.

My opinion is that if you can’t get more than $50 for your cell phone, donate it. It takes too much time to list the item, track the auction, collect payment, and then ship the package. A $50 sale will be cut down to $40 after fees and the whole process could easily take a few hours – just donate it to a worthy cause. I chose Cell Phones for Soldiers but there are many other worthy causes like the Support Network for Battered Women.

If your cell phone is really old, like 5+ years, with little reusable value, I’d just toss it in a recycling kiosk at Best Buy.

Ink/Toner Cartridges

If it’s a HP, Lexmark or Dell ink cartridge, you can get a $3 coupon for future ink purchases if you bring it to a Staples retail store. Otherwise, you can just drop them off at kiosks at any local Staples or Best Buy for recycling.


Batteries are extremely toxic and should always be recycled. For rechargeable batteries, check out Call2Recycle to find one of 30,000 drop off locations. For regular batteries, you can just drop them off at your local Staples or Best Buy.

Compact Fluorescent Bulbs

These aren’t really “electronics”, but I wanted to add them in because CFLs are becoming more popular and many people don’t realize they need to be disposed of correctly. CFLs have mercury inside and so you’ll want to bring burned out bulbs to Home Depot for recycling. They recently kicked off a nationwide initiative to recycle these bulbs, good move by them.

Photo by greenpomme)

{ 19 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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19 Responses to “Where to Recycle or Donate Electronics”

  1. Brandon says:

    I recently discovered that my area, Columbia, SC, has a program for recycling e-trash. The downside is that they only accept the items on specific days at specific times. These times are of course during the normal work day. Luckily, I work not far from the place and just packed my car in the morning and took the stuff over during my lunch hour.

    • CAB says:

      I need to properly dispose of a few things and I’m in Columbia, SC. What is the name of the place that recycles e-trash here, and where is it located?

  2. Scott says:

    You can get $3 off a purchase at OfficeMax for bringing in an old ink cartridge. Just give the old cartridge to the cashier and they’ll take the money off right there.

  3. Jon says:

    In MD, you can bring old electronics to the Baltimore County Resource Recovery Facility.

  4. Kara says:

    Another place to recycle cell phones is through Good Deed Foundation, they offer an on-the-spot printable label and the money goes to women in poverty and climate change. The printable label can be found here:
    They also have teh option of ordering a collection box for your community or if you don’t have a printer to request an envelope..

    Also – HomeDepot recently announced that each of their stores will offer CFL recycling (for when the bulbs actually die… in five years!) 😉 Here’s their Press Release:

    Staples also offers a discount on the purchase of another print cartridge if you bring one in! I think theirs is $3 as well.

    And if you have more time, trust your neighborhood, want to clean out your house of objects, FreeCycle is a great way to engage in a green lifestyle : )

  5. Glenn Lasher says:

    I hope you won’t mind a minor nitpick . . . I disagree that CFLs aren’t really electronics. If you were to open the base of one (I don’t recommend this, by the way), you will find that the ballast consists of a combination of different components built up into a controller that rectifies the input power (i.e. turns AC to DC), re-inverts (i.e. turns DC to AC) at a higher frequency (this is to prevent visible flickering) and provides a widely-varying complex of voltages in order to make the tube light and warm up quickly, then run at a reduced voltage once it is started. The benefits of these electronics are (a) no observable flicker (b) instant-on (c) instant-full-power (on some models), (d) no audible hum/buzz.

    This is in addition to the mercury that they contain.

  6. jim says:

    Glenn – You are totally right, many people, including myself, just don’t think of them as electronics in the way that a television, receiver, or computer as electronics. Technically, anything that runs on electricity is electronic right? 🙂

  7. Jenna says:

    Don’t forget Freecycle!

    • Fcmem says:

      Freecycle is awesome.
      Why pay someone to take your electronics?
      Companies that make you pay a fee turn right around and sell them to recyclers who scrap them for raw material (namely gold)

      Making you pay for something they’re going to make money on is a slap in the face.

      Whats worse is most recycling centers care nothing for the market value of the hardware they recycle, most of it still in working order.
      They take them apart with hammers.

      You are much better off using Freecycle someone who will actually put he hardware to use rather then destroying it.
      It’s much better to reuse then to recycle.

      If your hardware is only a few years old you can make some money selling it on ebay, yet again keeping the system out of the landfill as well as putting money in your pocket.

      some retailers have begun paying in gift cards based on how new the system is, only the amount they give is pathetic well below even used market value.

      Many wont pay a dime for anything that isn’t current generation or top tier last generation.

  8. Patrick says:

    The Goodwill in our area won’t accept any electronics unless they are in working order because they don’t have the capacity to repair them for resale.

    You can also drop off old cell phones in most cell phone stores like Sprint, Verizon, etc. I’d try donating it to someone who could use it first, but if it is beyond repair or too old, just drop it off in the recycle box.

    • Fcmem says:

      I actually recommend freecycle.
      It’s a news group where people post stuff they want to get rid of, others come and pick it up.

      It’s like thrift store without the middle man.
      since the person picking it up likely wants the item.. considering it’s the sole reason they come, it’s much better then even thrift stores because they’ll keep it.

      You would not believe the amount of trash thrift stores generate, not just broken stuff but stuff that doesn’t sell after X amount of time.

      If your ultimate goal is to keep it out of the landfill I strongly believe freecycle or posting on Craigslist (free section) is the way to go.

      even so called “recyclers” produce some waste, they use powerful chemicals to extract the precious metals and there is quite a bit of waste left over after they take the juicy profitable trace amount of gold.

      A system that is reused is better then a system (so called) recycled.

  9. Posco says:

    Pay ten dollars??

    Check with your city’s or county’s sanitation department. They may not charge anything, though you’ll need to transport to some collection point that may be less convenient than Staples.

    Los Angeles has a program called S.A.F.E. (Solvents/Automotive/Flammables/Electronics) for recycling and disposal. Check it out:

    And, yes, I agree that CFL bulbs ARE electronics.

  10. Patrick says:

    I just bought ink cartridges and they came with an insert to recycle the old ones and they would cover the shipping cost. Great link Jon. If I never need to recycle electronics I can go there since it is pretty close to me.

  11. e-man says:

    im new to this but i hate receling but its true wat u guys are saying so i have just recyeled 100 elctronies that i had laying around my house isnt that great yeahhh =]

  12. Soccer9040 says:

    The Staples & OfficeMax recycling program is AWESOME! I hope I’m not the only one taking advantage of this program. I earned $150 bucks this past month. It just doesn’t get any easier.

    • Jim says:

      HOw did you get $150? I recycle printer cartridges at Staples and it’s only $3 each, limit 10 a month.

      • Soccer9040 says:

        Officemax is where its at. 10 cartriges per week. Last month had 5 weeks in it. The real bonus is that some stores will let you buy gift cards with your reward check.

        I also have 3 staples accounts (Me, wife & a work account). I staggered them so that one account’s reward checks are always expiring. (Think CD ladder) Its $90 bucks a month of free $$.

        • tom says:

          hey what other recycling tricks do you have soccer9040 like the officemax and staples ones?

          • Soccer9040 says:

            Hey Tom – Unfortunately I don’t have any more tricks up my sleeve. And most unfortunately, OfficeMax scaled back their program to only 20 cartridges per month. They now limit what kind of cartridge you can recycle and they only will pay out an amount equal to what you spend in the store. Lucky for me I still spend well over $1,000 a year there so I can get my rewards, but for the people who were recycling and cashing out in gift cards without actually spending in the store, the ride is over.

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