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Which Electronics Items Can You Recycle & Which Recycling Method is Best?

by Ann Ferguson

With the holidays fast approaching, you know what that means, right? Presents! And of those, we know there’ll be a shiny new TV, sound system, or other electronic goodies. Why wouldn’t you take the opportunity to get that upgrade you deserve?

But when the new comes in, the old needs to go out. Which leads us to the eternal question: what do you do with your old electronics? While you can do many things, the best option to consider is recycling.

While recycling seems daunting, there are several ways to go about it — and we’ve got the scoop!

Before & During Recycling

Two people breaking down electronics for recycling

Before doing anything else, you should get your electronics in recycle mode. And by that, we mean backing up any personal data on your old devices and resetting them to factory settings. This is especially helpful with smart TVs with all those apps (and your passwords!).

But what happens when your electronics get recycled? First, they see if they can be fixed, re-sold, or donated to charity. When that’s not an option, the recycler takes the electronics apart and separates the individual components by type. For example, they’ll take apart a circuit board to recover copper, palladium, and other valuable metals, which are processed and sold to manufacturers.

What Can & Can’t Be Recycled

While you might be tempted to throw your electronics into the trash and just assume they’ll get sorted at the dump, that’s not the case. If electronic items are thrown in the garbage and taken to a landfill, the toxic chemicals inside them will eventually leak and contaminate the surrounding groundwater and soil — yikes! This is why many states make it illegal to trash your electronic equipment.

Which leads us to recycling: what can and can’t be recycled? Almost all types of everyday electronics can be partially recycled (at the least), including:

  • TVs
  • Cell phones
  • Computers
  • Tablets
  • Printers
  • Audio and video equipment
  • Speakers
  • VCRs
  • DVD Players

Note: Electronics that require special handling include anything containing mercury or lead, such as LCD TVs and monitors or old tube TVs (you know, the dinosaur TVs).


One of your first options in recycling your old electronics is through donation — one person’s trash is another person’s treasure and all that, right? This saying is especially true for old electronics that are two to three years old.

And even if it doesn’t work, plenty of charities or nonprofit organizations are happy to take them off your hands. So, look for local organizations for older people and recreation centers to see if they’ll take your old electronics.

Other places you can donate your electronics include Goodwill (which is partnered with Dell), the World Computer Exchange, Salvation Army, Vietnam Veterans of America, and eBay for Charity.

Note: If you have a receipt for what you donated, you can deduct it from your taxes on next year’s return!


Another option for you to do with your old electronics is to sell them. Even if they’re a little older, so long as it works, you could get a pretty penny for your electronics — even if it’s just for parts. And having a little extra cash on hand can’t hurt!


Person collecting electronics to recycle

If donating and re-selling aren’t feasible options for your old electronics, the next option is to take it to a local recycler. This way, your old electronics will be disposed of properly and not strain your local landfills. For instance, in 2019, an estimated 53.6 million tons of e-waste was discarded, and only 17.4 million were disposed of properly — that’s a huge gap!

So, to lessen that gap, find a local e-waste recycler like Call2Recycle, which offers drop-off locations for rechargeable batteries, cell phones, and more all over the U.S. But be sure to contact them beforehand to see if they take the electronics they plan to dispose of.

Pro Tip: Check the EPA’s website to find other certified recyclers!

Local E-Waste Collection Event

Local e-waste collection

Another way to recycle your old electronics is through local e-waste collection events. You might’ve seen a sign around your local grocery store about special days they host e-waste events — that’s precisely what you need!

These collection events help dispose of old electronics responsibly and are usually nearby, so you don’t have to go through so much hassle in moving clunky TVs or heavy speakers. So, be sure to call your city service department to discover when the next one near you is being held (and don’t forget to ask what types of products are accepted!).

Take-Back or Trade-in Programs

Did you know that several electronics manufacturers and retailers offer recycling programs? That makes upgrading to newer models and saying bye-bye to the old even easier. All you have to do is contact the manufacturer or retailer and see if there’s a discount or trade-in option for returning the old model.

One option is through Amazon, which offers a mail-in opportunity for cellphones, e-readers, tablets, and Bluetooth speakers, providing gift cards in exchange!

Curbside Collection

If you have smaller electronics you’d like to dispose of, you might be able to leave them on the curb for your curbside collection. However, don’t just assume what you have is acceptable — double-check the rules of your location first. Some states will fine you if you leave out electronics on the wrong days or if they’re the wrong ones.

Household Hazardous Waste

Is curbside collection not an option? Try your local household hazardous waste facility instead! They’ll have the protocols to disassemble the item for disposal safely. Some household hazardous waste facilities serve the city, while others go through the county, so you’ll need to contact your city’s public works department to find the right location.

Shiny & New

Couple excited with their new TV

Now you know more about how to recycle old electronics — just in time for all those new ones you’ll get during the holidays! Don’t have any on your wish list? Check out our TV & audio catalog at Toton’s TV!

Have any questions? Don’t hesitate to contact our team!