How to recycle your phone, PC and other tech gear

Now that recycling is mandatory in many states, it's become even easier to sell, recycle or give away your unwanted hardware.

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Recycling through retailers

An excellent place to recycle is at electronics retailers. Many have comprehensive recycling programs (often dictated by state law) that let you bring your electronics to their retail locations. For the most part, the stores will accept products whether or not they were purchased there, and will recycle them for free. However, it's always a good idea to check a retailer's policy online before you go.

Best Buy, for example, accepts computers, printers, peripherals, TVs, DVD players, computer monitors, audio and video cables, cell phones and more. In some instances, you'll be able to trade in old electronics for a Best Buy gift card.

Staples also will accept electronics to recycle. Depending on what you're recycling, you may be able to trade it in for a Staples gift card.

At Office Depot, you can buy an electronics-recycling box ($5, $10 or $15, depending on its size), fill it with electronics, and bring it to the store.

Radio Shack has an electronics trade-in program that you can use either online or in-store. If the device that you want to trade in has no value, Radio Shack will still accept it and recycle it.

Recycling through manufacturers

You can also recycle old electronics through manufacturers. Dell, for example, has several electronics recycling programs. A good bet is Dell Reconnect, which lets you take your electronics -- any kind, not just Dell's -- to certain local Goodwill stores to be either refurbished and sold, or else recycled. You can also recycle any Dell product for free and have it picked up where you live or work. You print out a shipping label, package up the product, and FedEx will pick it up, or you can bring it to a FedEx Center. In addition, if you buy a new Dell computer, Dell will take back your old PC and monitor for free, no matter the brand.

Apple will recycle computers and displays from any manufacturer, not just from Apple. Call 877-712-2405 to get a free prepaid shipping label. Pack up the equipment and it will be picked up and recycled. Apple will also give you an Apple gift card for turning in some Apple equipment and even some PCs. In addition, if you want to recycle a non-Apple display or computer, Apple contracts with WeRecycle to do it. Call the same number as for recycling Apple products.

HP has partnered with Staples and FedEx to recycle old electronics. You can drop off HP equipment at a FedEx office to be recycled for free, but you'll first have to print out a free voucher. HP also has various programs for trading in electronics or returning them for cash.

Sony has a program in which you can bring your Sony product to a nearby recycler. No mail-in options are available.

Toshiba offers several ways to recycle electronics, including a mail-in program for any Toshiba laptop or monitor.

Other manufacturers that have recycling programs include: Acer, Asus, Gateway, Lenovo and Samsung.

If you want to recycle your mobile phone, most major vendors and carriers offer recycling programs, including: AT&T, LG, Motorola, Nokia, Samsung and Verizon Wireless.

The one exception to this laudable trend may be T-Mobile, which deserves criticism for what is either a bait-and-switch for people interested in recycling phones -- or simply an inability to keep its site current. T-Mobile has a page on its site that highlights its overall "greenness" and appears to link to ways to recycle your phone, to offer advice on how to go green, and to learn about T-Mobile's work to provide after-school activities for children in a program called Huddle Up.

However, when I clicked the link that says it will provide information about how to recycle your phone, I was sent to a page that tries to enlist support to get better T-Mobile wireless coverage in local communities. When I clicked the link to learn more about going green, I got an error page. And when I clicked the Huddle Up link, I was sent to a page dated January 2010 that described the T-Mobile Invitational National High School Basketball Tournament.

T-Mobile does one thing right: It says you can bring a T-Mobile phone to a T-Mobile store to be recycled.

Donate your electronics to a good cause

Re-use is even better than recycling. And there's no better way to make sure that your electronics will be re-used is to donate them to a non-profit organization.

The Cristina Foundation connects people who want to donate tech with organizations that can use it.

The Cristina Foundation provides an easy way to do that. The foundation helps connect people who want to donate technology with non-profits, schools or public agency organizations that can use it. Head to its non-profit locator, type in your ZIP code, and you'll get a list of non-profits near you. Included are the equipment they accept, along with details about the non-profit itself. Choose a group, and you'll be able to start the donation process online.

Another worthy group, the World Computer Exchange, accepts working computers, monitors, hard drives, cell phones, printers, network equipment and more.

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