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Guidry: Reduce e-waste by selling, donating, recycling old electronics

Triona Guidry
Triona Guidry

If you’re getting a new computer or phone, consider selling, donating or recycling your old one. This is a great way to help reduce e-waste.

Too much of our technology is designed to be thrown away, but you can reduce this waste stream and give new life to old equipment.

Many computer manufacturers and stores provide trade-in programs. Some, such as Apple, even might offer gift cards depending on the value of the device. You also can sell your electronics via sites such as Craigslist, eBay or Facebook Marketplace, as well as offer them for free on FreeCycle.

Keep in mind that not all charities can benefit from donated devices. They may have specific needs that cannot be met by the technology you’re offering, or your computer may be too old for their purposes.

Before donating to a school, library or other charity, check to see whether it’s something they can use.

Organizations such as The Cristina Foundation accept old electronics for distribution to nonprofits.

Don’t forget to keep records of your donation for tax purposes.

If you choose to recycle your equipment, use a certified electronics recycler. Some unscrupulous companies simply toss your technology in the trash instead. Earth911 and GreenDisk have information that might help.

Locally, you can contact the Environmental Defenders of McHenry County to ask about its electronics recycling drives. Monitors, keyboards, mice and cables contain toxic chemicals that shouldn’t enter the environment.

Batteries are particularly problematic. Check with stores such as Batteries Plus for recycling options.

Before you sell, donate or recycle, it’s important to remove your old data. The first thing you’ll want to do is back up your information. But don’t just do one backup. Do several and test them.

Don’t get rid of your old device until you’re certain that your new one works properly. It can serve as an emergency backup in case the configuration of the new device goes awry.

When it comes to iPhones and iPads, it’s imperative that you disable Activation Lock before a sale or donation. If you don’t, the device will be unusable, even if it is erased. Apple has instructions on its website for disabling Activation Lock.

If you’re donating or selling a computer, you’ll need to reset it to factory default. This means that the computer will look just as it did when you first got it: no data, just the system software and any apps that came with it.

Again, confirm that your backups work before you do this, as the process is irreversible. Check your manufacturer’s support site to find out how to reset your particular computer.

If you’re recycling, you can erase the computer’s drive either by physically removing the drive or by wiping it with a special utility. Tossing your files into the recycle bin won’t be enough, and a regular reformat doesn’t necessarily zero out your information. For Windows, try utilities such as DBAN or Eraser. Mac users can use Security Options in the built-in Disk Utility.

Another way you can help to reduce e-waste is by considering buying refurbished devices. Many manufacturers offer refurbished equipment complete with warranties.

• Triona Guidry is a computer specialist and freelance writer offering tech support, web design and business writing services. For computer help, visit her Tech Tips blog at www.lightningtechsupport.com.

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