Don’t trash that old phone: How to get rid of unwanted electronics

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ST. LOUIS (KTVI) – If you have a growing pile of electronics in your home, it’s common to want to throw them in the trash. But that’s the last thing you should do.

E-waste contains lots of hazardous elements that can harm humans and animals, according to Scott Schaffer, chief information security officer with Blade Technologies.

Batteries are a big concern because they contain many different chemicals and can catch fire under certain conditions.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, electronics are also made of valuable materials that “require energy to mine and manufacture.”

“Donating or recycling consumer electronics conserves our natural resources and avoids air and water pollution, as well as greenhouse gas emissions that are caused by manufacturing virgin materials,” the federal agency said.

According to the EPA, recycling 1 million laptops is equivalent to saving the amount of electricity used by more than 3,500 U.S. homes in a year. And for every 1 million recycled cell phones, 35,000 pounds of copper, 772 pounds of silver, 75 pounds of gold and 33 pounds of palladium can be recovered, said the EPA.

Those who want to recycle an electronic device should take it to a local e-waste recycler, or check to see if nearby electronics retailers are accepting old devices for recycling. The EPA also offers information on electronic donation and recycling on its website.

If you don’t want to recycle your device for any particular reason, it can also be repurposed. An old smartphone, for instance, can be used an alarm clock, security camera or remote for a smart TV. And an old tablet can be used as a digital picture frame or video call station.

Sometimes, simply upgrading the hardware or software in your computer or laptop can prolong its life and usefulness, temporarily eliminating the need for a new one.

Schaffer also suggested a number of apps that can help users find new purpose for their old devices.

  • AlfredCamera: Use for cross-platform security cameras
  • Manything: Good for repurposing iOS tablets as security cameras
  • Presence Video Security Camera: Good for using devices for security cameras
  • Alarm Clock for me: Cross-platform app to turn your device into a dedicated alarm clock
  • Apple Photos app or Google Photos app: Will let you turn your device into a dedicated smart picture frame

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