After your family has opened the new computers, I-phones, DVD players and televisions, what happens with the old stuff?
Donating used (but still operating) electronics for reuse extends the lives of valuable products and keeps them out of the waste stream for a longer period of time. Reuse, in addition to being an environmentally preferable alternative, also benefits society. By donating used electronics, you allow schools, nonprofit organizations, and lower-income families to obtain equipment that they otherwise could not afford.
Before donating a computer or other electronics, make sure the equipment is reusable. Donation organizations have limited, or in many cases, no resources and employees to diagnose and repair hardware. A functional, working system – especially with monitor, wiring, and software licenses – is a lot more useful and requires less upgrading than a nonworking, incomplete computer.
Check to see what the donation organization's minimum computer requirements are, such as Pentium processor, Windows 95 operating system. Donation organizations might not accept (or may charge a fee for) older, less useful equipment.
Businesses might be able to take advantage of tax incentives for computer equipment donations. The 21st Century Classroom Act encourages large companies to donate computer equipment to public and private schools. When donating equipment to a nonprofit organization, inquire about documentation that can be applied toward your income tax return.
The most appropriate donation organization for computers can vary from area to area. In some cases, the most viable donation organization might be a charity, but in other areas, the appropriate donation organization might be the local school district or materials exchange.
Broken electronics and computers too outdated to donate can be recycled. Computer monitors and older television picture tubes can pollute the environment if not recycled or disposed of properly. Check with the product's manufacturer to see if they will take back or trade in the product for recycling – many manufacturers do, include Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Apple, Toshiba and Sony.
See if a retailer has an in-store collection program or if they are hosting an electronics collection event. Cingular, Best Buy and Staples offer ongoing in-store collection of used cell phones, and Best Buy and Staples sometimes host collection events. Local governments often collect electronics as part of their household hazardous waste management program.
For specific suggestions on where to recycle, go to www.epa.gov/reg3wcmd/eCycling/eCyclingcollections.htm. Or go to: www.earth911.org or 1-800-CLEANUP to find collection sites and events using a zip code; ww.eiae.org, The Electronic Industries Alliance for recyclers in Pennsylvania; www.techsoup.org, TechSoup for information on computer reuse.