Proper Recycling and Disposal of Old Tech

recycling computer tech

In today's world of never-ending new technology being developed or upgraded for multiple devices, there comes a time when the item needs to be replaced. This may be due to irreparable damage, replacing the current device with a better and more efficient model, or the item is outdated and needs to be upgraded. Regardless of what or why, one thing that must be addressed is knowing the best practices to either recycle or dispose of the old technology.

Types of Recycled or Disposable Technology

There are more than a couple of devices that rely on state-of-the art technology that are destined to fall into the recycle or disposal bin. Just a few examples include personal computers (PC), laptops, tablets, external hard drives, digital cameras, gaming consoles, smart TVs, and cell phones.

The Importance of Disposing or Recycling Safely

Personal devices play an important role in making everyday tasks faster, easier, and more convenient such as paying bills online, ordering goods and services online, scheduling appointments, checking activity on your bank account, transferring funds, utilizing apps on your phone to check email, filing income tax returns, and many more.

Technology makes all these processes easy and convenient, but it also puts your personal/private information at risk because it's embedded into internal-memory files of the device. If your computer or phone is hacked, for example, your private information is no longer private, which can lead to a variety of problems from emptied bank accounts to accounts being set up in your name that you know nothing about. Along with info, pictures are also at risk of being used by others if left on the device.

Electronic are also comprised of a variety of substances that are toxic and must be handled with extreme care. Substances such as cadmium, lead, and mercury are found in electronics, which means safe handling is a priority for those who have the knowledge of how to carefully remove data when these substances are involved.

Basic Recycling and Disposing of Technology

Deleting Information

hand deleting facebook on a phone

While deleting files and/or reformatting the hard drive on your computer or instigating the reset process on a tablet will remove some information, it won't remove it all leaving private information accessible. All it takes for a savvy tech person to do is use data-recovery software to tap into a gold mine of information.

For computers being disposed of, whether via recycling, disposing, or donating, and you're doing the cleaning yourself, all delete data files must be deleted. Deleting the files will also overwrite the data and several times making it a challenge to access and retrieve private/personal information.


Tablets and smart phones may be cleaned by erasing and generating an encryption code followed by a factory reset. Different phone types (Apple, Android, Blackberry) and the age of the device can affect how to do the self-cleaning/erasing/encryption process.

Factory Reset

Gaming consoles pose a different problem as a simple factory reset may be all you can do. This means the internal hard drive may or may not be removable to erase files once it's connected to a computer. Any SD cards will also need to be erased.


donating old tech

For devices that are still operable, you can donate the item to a charity, non-profit organization, community and recreation centers, senior centers, or other types of facilities where the device is needed and will be used.

Follow the same basic steps for each device, which means be sure all of your personal information has been removed from the device. Once the item is clear of any files, folders, etc. donate the device to the organization of your choice. Get a receipt for the donated item to use as a tax deduction when filing your federal income tax return.

Technology Safety Tips

Whenever a device is being disposed of or recycled, there are steps to take for your particular device following the manufacturer's guidelines. There are also software programs designed to help do-it-yourselfers wipe a device clean following the instructions for specific models.

Before recycling or disposing of technology, unless you are removing reusable parts to build or enhance another device, it is recommended using the services of a reputable company with tech support representatives to thoroughly wipe internal system parts clean leaving no trace of information anywhere within the device.