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OK, you got a new phone or laptop. How do you recycle the old one?

There are a lot of options when it comes to disposing of your devices, and the right ones protect your privacy and the planet

PORTLAND, Maine — 207’s tech guy, Rich Brooks from Flyte New Media, has disposed of plenty of electronic devices over the years. He has some excellent advice on getting rid of them responsibly while also ensuring no one gets access to your personal data. 

207: Many people received new laptops, tablets, and smartphones over the holidays. What can you do with all of your older equipment, and what concerns should you have? Why can't we just drop old electronics in the trash or recycling bin?

Brooks: We definitely don't want to just drop our electronics in the trash. Electronic waste, often referred to as e-waste, is a growing problem. It was estimated in 2021 that over 57 million tons of e-waste was created, with only about 17% of that being recycled.

E-waste leads to more pollution and greenhouse gas emissions and can release toxic chemicals as well.

While recycling can be a good alternative, it requires special handling, and you can't just drop it in the bin.

Also, if you don't take proper steps, you may be exposing your personal data to theft.

207: OK, so what should we do before handing off our electronics?

Brooks: Whether it's a computer, tablet, or phone, we have so much of our personal data and passwords on our devices these days. Before you hand over any device, you want to erase all your personal data.

For most devices, this can be done in the settings. Depending on the device and the manufacturer, you'll want to erase all data and reset the device to factory settings before you get rid of it.

207: Speaking of which, what are our options?

Brooks: If you're looking to make a little something off your device, you can always try selling it. There are a lot of online marketplaces where a used electronic device can still score hundreds of dollars ... everywhere from eBay to Facebook Marketplace and a bunch of specialty sites as well. A quick Google search will unearth them.

If you're in the process of buying a new device, especially a phone, there are some very generous trade-in programs right now, especially as many of the carriers are looking to lock in users for long-term contacts.

207: If we don't need the cash or don't want to be bothered, what else can we do?

Brooks: There are plenty of other options. You can, of course, just give it to a friend or family member. If you are going to go this route, it's still important to make sure all of your personal data is off of the device.

If there's still life in the device, then donating it is a great option. There are so many non-profits, organizations, and schools that can put older electronics to use. Some charities take older devices to sell them to raise funds. Or you can just drop it off at your local Goodwill, which has locations all over the state. Often there will be a tax write-off for your donation.

And the last option, especially if it's really old or you can't even get it to boot up, is to recycle your device ... making sure that it doesn't end up in a landfill. Since 2008, the law in Maine is if a company sells a cell phone at retail, they need to accept used phones at no charge. Again, you'll still want to reset your device to factory settings to protect your data and personal information.

If — and this happens — you have a very old computer that you can't even get to boot up properly, but you're concerned you've left some personal data on it, you might want to take a drill to the hard drive first. Turn that data into swiss cheese.

The big takeaways here are to get rid of your devices responsibly and to make sure you leave no trace of yourself on your devices before you do.

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