The State We’re In: Don’t Toss Old Electronics … Recycle!

Michele S. Byers

Michele S. Byers

by Michele S. Byers, executive director, New Jersey Conservation Foundation

The season of gift-giving has exploded with electronics.

If you’re like many folks, you probably got modern toys like flat-screen TVs, smartphones, tablets and gaming consoles beneath your tree.

New electronic gadgets are fun, but they create a serious post-holiday dilemma: What can be done with old and outdated devices?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 never intended for landfills. For instance, the cathode ray tubes of old TVs and computer monitors contain lead. 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 “re-homing” or donating your electronics to charity. Maybe you no longer need that old cell phone or laptop, but you can be sure somebody out there would love it.

Cell phones are especially in demand, and can find second lives as emergency 9-1-1 phones. Contact your local police department or go to

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

According to the federal Environmental Protection Agency, for every million cell phones recycled, 35,000 pounds of copper, 772 pounds of silver, 75 pounds of gold, and 33 pounds of palladium are recovered.

Closer to home, check out local shelters, nursing homes or social service agencies that may need donations of functional computers, phones, cameras, televisions, gaming consoles and other electronics. Ask them first, however – 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. And if you are disposing of a newer cell phone, try for a trade- in from your mobile carrier.

If you’re stuck with electronic devices that absolutely nobody wants – like those old tube TVs, computer monitors and assorted stuff that no longer works – contact an electronic waste collection site. To find the nearest e-waste location, check the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s list at

Recycling is always better than dumping, and you can help! But make sure that you delete all your personal information first.

And for information about preserving New Jersey’s land and natural resources, visit the New Jersey Conservation Foundation website at or contact me at

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