Recycling alternatives for electronic devices

I f you’re like many folks, you probably have new, modern toys such as flatscreen TVs, smartphones, tablets and gaming consoles after the latest season of gift-giving.

New electronic gadgets are fun, but they create a serious post-holiday dilemma: What can be done with old and outdated devices?

Most definitely, don’t toss them into the trash. Many home electronics contain hazardous materials that were never intended for landfills. For instance, the cathode ray tubes of old TVs and computer monitors contain lead. And some electronic components may contain mercury, cadmium and chromium.

So here’s your chance to make it a “green” new year and recycle your old electronics.

The simplest recycling method is “rehoming” or donating your electronics to charity. Maybe you no longer need that old cellphone or laptop, but you can be sure somebody out there would love it.

Cellphones are especially in demand and can find second lives as emergency 911 phones. Contact your local police department or visit

Cellphones can also be donated to nonprofits that are able to sell them for components and use the proceeds for their mission. For example, Cell Phones for Soldiers uses recycling proceeds to buy prepaid international calling cards for U.S. soldiers so they can call home for free. For more information, visit

According to the federal Environmental Protection Agency, for every million cellphones recycled, 35,000 pounds of copper, 772 pounds of silver, 75 pounds of gold and 33 pounds of palladium are recovered. Closer to home, there are local shelters, nursing homes or social service agencies that may need donations of functional computers, phones, cameras, televisions, gaming consoles and other electronics. However, ask them first — don’t just drop items off.

Another recycling alternative is Freecycle, a bulletin-board-type website that matches people trying to find homes for unneeded items with those seeking them. New Jersey has several Freecycle groups. Use a search engine to find the one that serves your county.

For the entrepreneurs out there, recycle electronics in good condition by selling them on eBay. If you are disposing of a newer cellphone, try for a trade-in from your mobile carrier.

If you’re stuck with electronic devices that absolutely nobody wants — for example, those old tube TVs, computer monitors and assorted stuff that no longer works — contact an electronic-waste collection site.

To find the nearest location, check the Department of Environmental Protection’s list at pdf.

Recycling is always better than dumping — and you can help. Make sure that you delete all your personal information first.

Michele S. Byers
Executive Director
New Jersey Conservation Foundation
Far Hills