Old gadget: Sell it, toss it, recycle it?

Most people have gadgets they no longer use. Here are tips on getting rid of them. (Photo credit: Consumer Electronics Association)

WASHINGTON — Whatever happened to your old BlackBerry? Where did your Palm Zire end up?

In this age of quickly morphing consumer technology, electronic devices will likely become outdated as quickly as new possibilities emerge.

So, what’s to become of all those devices that suddenly aren’t the latest hot gadget?

“It’s important to recycle, because there are resources and materials in these old products that can be used in new products,” says Walter Alcorn, vice president for environmental affairs with the Consumer Electronics Association. “To have them just be wasted is a waste.”

Alcorn says metals can be recycled and reused, not only in future electronic devices but for other uses.

“Then there’s glass, and of course plastics – those are three primary materials streams that come out of old electronics,” says Alcorn.

Anyone want to buy this?

Alcorn says the explosion in the number of mobile devices is leading to a huge jump in the sale of used devices.

“We’re seeing a vibrant resale market emerging, and a refurbishment market within the recycling industry,” says Alcorn. For mobile products “there are trade-in opportunities, and it seems to be quite a thriving business.”

Phones, tablets and devices with still-available operating systems are at the top of items being resold.

“For some of the older legacy products, like old televisions, computer monitors – these products do not have any sort of inherent value,” says Alcorn.

Should I just toss it?

The Consumer Electronics Association – the Arlington-based standards and trade organization for the electronics industry – is aiming to recycle one billion pounds of electronics annually by 2016, which would be a more than threefold increase over 2010.

The CEA has a website – www.greenergadgets.org – dedicated to recycling, including a ZIP code locator of manufacturers, retailers and certified eCycling locations. Not all recycling locations accept all electronics, according to the CEA website.

For instance, some retailers will only recycle a large television if the customer purchases a replacement TV.

“That is something that takes a little more effort,” says Alcorn. “Our industry is committed to not just recycling the good, easy stuff, but also the more difficult, expensive stuff.”

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