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How Do I Recycle E-Waste?

Old "Sharp" computer keyboard abandoned in a parking garage

When you think about our landfills you probably think about candy wrappers, broken bottles, and half eaten slices of pizza. Would it surprise you to know that the world’s fastest growing source of garbage is actually e-waste? In fact, according to the United Nations University, last year the e-waste we created weighed as much as 350 cruise ships!

And what is in e-waste? Well, some harmful chemical for starters. Some of the substances that can be leaked from our old devices, such as mercury or lead, can cause damage to the human brain and/or our coordination.

But there are good things we’re throwing away as well. Many of our devices contain gold, silver, copper, platinum, and other high-value metals. If we were to recycle these metals it is estimated by the United Nations University that we would be able to recover $57 billion dollars in these valuable metals.

What can I recycle?

The actual devices you can recycle will be determined by the facilities available to you.  You may be surprised how many different items around your office and home fall under the category of e-waste.

  • Desktop Computers
  • Laptops
  • Keyboards & Mice
  • Computer Speakers
  • Monitors
  • Surge Protectors
  • Flash Drives
  • Hard Drives
  • Tablets
  • Cell Phones
  • Calculators
  • Printers
  • Ink & Toner
  • Scanners
  • Fax Machines
  • Shredders
  • Servers
  • Modems
  • Routers
  • Security Equipment
  • Cables & Connectors
  • Wires, Cables, and Chargers
  • Phone Systems
  • TVs
  • Projectors
  • DVD/DVR/VCR Players
  • CD/Cassette Players
  • Stereo Equipment
  • Soundbars
  • Smart Speakers
  • Gaming Consoles & Accessories
  • Portable Gaming Devices
  • E-Readers
  • MP3 Players
  • Tablets
  • Cell Phones
  • Telephones
  • Rechargeable Batteries
  • Alarm Clocks
  • Security Systems
  • Web Cams
  • Camcorders
  • Digital Cameras
  • Lenses
  • Memory Cards
  • Digital Photo Frames
  • Curling Irons
  • Hair Dryers
  • Hair Straighteners
  • Fans
  • Toasters
  • Irons
  • Coffee Pots
  • Ice Makers
  • Microwaves
  • Robot Vacuums
  • GPS
  • CB Radio/Scanners
  • Satellite Radio
  • Radar Detectors
  • Lead-Based Battery
  • Smart Watches
  • Pedometer and Heart Rate Monitors
  • Earbuds
  • Hands-Free Headsets
  • VR Headsets & Components

How do I prepare my device for recycling?

No matter how you decide to dispose of your device, it’s important to keep security in mind.  You don’t want to turn your device over to be recycled with all your valuable data still inside!

  1. Backup any data you want to keep and/or move to a new device.  You can use an external hard drive or online backups.
  2. Wipe any data that remains on the device.  Be sure to use a software that overwrites the data so that it is no longer accessible.
  3. Perform a factory reset.
  4. If this is a business device, log that the device has been removed from service.

"No matter how you decide to dispose of your device, it's important to keep security in mind."

Where can I dispose of my e-waste?

There are a variety of places to recycle your devices.  Be sure to closely follow any instructions you are given.  For example, you may need to recycle you device and the battery separately or a location may only be able to recycle specific brands.

Local Recycling Facility or Event

If you have one near you, probably the most convenient way to recycle your e-waste is to take it straight to the recycling facility.  If you don’t have a facility nearby that accepts e-waste, watch to see if someone in your community is hosting a collection event.

SC Green Team/City of Winfield E-Waste Event

Local Schools or Colleges

I remember as a 5th grader, excitedly tearing into a stereo speaker as a “dissection” project.  Your local schools or colleges may be looking for electronics to tear apart for educational purposes.  Some schools also participate in ink cartridge recycling programs as school fundraisers.


When you purchase your new device, be sure to ask your retailer if they have a recycling program.  You may be able to leave your old device there at the store for free or a small fee.


Some manufacturers will allow you to return the device to be recycled for free or a small fee.  Some may even give you a discount on an upgrade so they can refurbish and resell your old device.

Protect Your Data Before You Need It

You’re likely looking up how to recycle e-waste because your old device failed.  Hopefully you had the information you needed from that device backed up prior to the failure.  If you didn’t–this is the perfect time to start!


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