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Help File: Options for recycling electronics

By Rob Pegoraro
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, January 1, 2011; 5:36 PM

Q: What are my options for donating or recycling old computers and electronics?

A: They don't include throwing them in the trash, because most electronics hide toxic ingredients like lead and mercury.

As I suggested last year, you should start by trying to sell the old hardware or giving it away through the likes of Freecycle (freecycle.org). You can also try selling smaller devices directly to sites such as Gazelle (gazelle.com), YouRenew.com and BuyMyTronics.com.

If you're unloading a computer, remember to wipe your old data from it, as explained in last week's column.

If you can't find a taker for an old PC, you can try handing it over to organizations that will give it a tune-up before placing it in a new home. Two local operations, the Capital PC User Group (reboot.cpcug.org) and MacRecycleClinic (macrecycleclinic.org), as well as larger nonprofits like the National Cristina Foundation (cristina.org), refurbish donated machines before passing them on to charities, schools or other worthy recipients.

Older hardware will require recycling. You can often hand off an old computer to your new model's manufacturer at no cost; see, for instance, programs from Apple (apple.com/environment), Dell (dell.com/recycle) and HP (hp.com/recycle).

For larger items - in particular, bulky cathode-ray-tube TVs - find a local option. For example, Best Buy stores (bestbuy.com/recycle) charge $10 for recycling most TVs as well as laptops and monitors but offer a $10 store gift card in return; other gadgets are free to drop off.

For other reuse and recycling options, see the Consumer Electronics Association's myGreenElectronics (mygreenelectronics.org), Consumer Reports' GreenerChoices.org and the Electronics TakeBack Coalition (electronicstakeback.com). The last organization requires the recyclers it lists to avoid shipping "e-waste" to developing countries and to meet extra environmental standards.

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