Info and Answers
Recycling Your Electronics Made Easy
Let online recyclers move that mountain of old gear in your basement.
September 05, 2007 by Rebecca Day

There’s nothing like a relocation to make you reevaluate the electronics in your life. Yep, I’m moving, and that means going through boxes, obsolete gear and more cables than you can find in the accessories aisle at Radio Shack.

I’ve already secured the prized HDMI cables, which in theory makes all of the RCA audio, S-Video, composite and component video cables obsolete. Unfortunately, most of my electronics predate HDMI, so I still need to keep those dinosaur links, along with optical and coaxial digital audio connectors, FireWire and DVI—just in case.

It’s a messy collection to stuff into a box, but at least with those standard connectors, I know what’s what. It’s the proprietary cables that I’m really terrified of tossing. What happens if I junk the one with a standard mini plug on one end and a custom connector on the other, and it turns out I need it for some first-generation digital music player I forgot I had?

Then there’s the power cord to nowhere. Why can’t manufacturers put their own name on the charger rather than an unrelated, no-name brand? It may have something to do with not wanting a potentially faulty battery connected with their brand, but it sure makes life difficult on the consumer end. If the power supply gets separated from the player—which has already happened several times—the two may never find each other again. This move has made me realize that I have to make my own labels for each cord and charger—and it’s a little late for that.

When you’ve lived in the same place for 15 years, you collect a lot of electronics that were important only in their day. My house has been a living museum of next best things that I now need to part with: a sub-megapixel floppy disk–based Mavica digital camera, an AC-3 decoder that served as a transition product between Dolby Pro Logic and Dolby Digital, and a combination laserdisc/DVD player. Then there are the products that define an earlier age. I’m amused by my old a/d/s/ L780 “bookshelf” speakers, which are as compact as a 10-gallon garbage can.

What to do? I’ve donated some working products to friends who can use them, but the out-of-date gear has to be moved to a responsible resting place. That’s where e-cycling comes in. I found a nearby recycling facility through the Consumer Electronics Association’s web site, and I have started taking my consumer electronics antiques and retired computer gear there—all but the cell phones.

I’ve gotten a new cell phone every year or so, it seems. Kudos to the wireless industry for encouraging recycling efforts through wireless carrier stores and organizations. I frequent for options, one of which includes donating phones to victims of domestic abuse. There I discovered http://www.cellphonesforsoldiers, which converts old cell phones into talk time for troops. Phones are sent to ReCellular, a recycling company that pays roughly an hour of talk time through prepaid calling cards for each phone it receives via donation centers across the country.

Now that’s a good move.

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