Recycle your tech gear: It's easier than you think

There are a lot of places online that can make it easier to sell, recycle or give away those old monitors, computers, phones and cameras.

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My BoneYard

My BoneYard helps consumers recycle music players, laptops, cell phones, desktop systems and flat-panel monitors. It not only recycles, but says that it will wipe your hard drives of all data if you don't want to do it yourself. (There are a number of ways, however, you can safely wipe your data from computers and phones yourself.)

Be aware that this site is for someone who knows at least a minimum of tech; to assess your laptop, for example, it doesn't ask for specifics on the model, but on the type and speed of your processor. Because my Asus wasn't included in its list of vendors, I was told to send in the details and the company would appraise the item.

My BoneYard provides prepaid labels.

BuyMyTronics

I was immediately struck by the skull-and-crossbones that BuyMyTronics exhibits on its home page. The company takes game consoles, cell phones/PDAs, and iPods/iPhones. (Other products, such as digital cameras and camcorders, are listed, but when I clicked on the categories, I got a "Coming Soon" notice -- which meant I couldn't test the service with my gear.)

If your device qualifies for a payback, you get the option to donate the price to one of several charities. BuyMyTronics subtracts the shipping costs from your payback; if you don't rate a payback, you can send your product to BuyMyTronics to recycle, but you have to pay the shipping costs.

EcoNew

Like NextWorth, EcoNew offers a retail gift card in return for your device; you can choose from Sam's Club, Office Depot or Nex Navy Exchange. Interestingly, you start not by choosing which device you want to get rid of, but which vendor you want to deal with. I selected Office Depot, which takes trade-ins on notebook and desktop PCs, media players, LCDs, game consoles, camcorders, digital cameras and smartphones. I was offered $18 for my HP Photosmart 812; my Panasonic Lumix was valued at $23. Free shipping was included.

If you choose Office Depot, you can also recycle CRTs, printers and fax machines by buying a box (prices range from $5 to $15, depending on the size of the box) and bringing your device to one of its stores.

Consumer Electronics Recycling

This service accepts consumer items shipped to it for recycling. It also offers to purchase PDAs, smartphones, cell phones and iPods, depending on the model, but the list of those it will price is very limited (for example, the list of manufacturers for cell phones had only four names on it). You have to pay the postage.

TechForward

This is a plan for people who think ahead. Purchase the Guaranteed Buyback plan at the same time you buy new equipment, and when you're ready to upgrade, TechForward will buy back your device in good condition (meaning fully functional and accompanied by "all original software installation disks, manuals, peripheral devices and all other accessories that originally shipped with the device").

How much you get back depends on how long you've owned it. For example, you get up to 50% of the original price for a device that's six months old and up to 20% for up to 24 months after purchase. A policy for my Panasonic digital camera (assuming I had just bought it) cost $19.99.

Recycle it locally

While online recyclers try to make it as easy as possible to recycle your electronic gear, sometimes it's just as easy to load the stuff into your car and haul it over to your local recycler.

EPA's eCycling

There are a number of Web sites that offer guidance as to where you can find local e-waste recyclers, including e-Recycle.org (which is most useful if you live in California) and Earth911.com, which includes a comprehensive database of resources. However, the granddaddy of them all is the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Web site, which offers lists of helpful organizations, regulations on handling electronic equipment and lots of other interesting information.

e-Stewards

There have been some news stories over the past few years showing that many so-called recycling companies actually ship their waste to other countries, where the components are dismantled under dangerous conditions. A group called e-Stewards offers a list of local e-waste recyclers that have pledged to follow rigorous recycling practices.

GreenDisk

If you don't have a local recycling option, GreenDisk will recycle your computer-related waste, including components, printer cartridges and rechargeable batteries. You have two options: You choose its Pack_IT service, where you pay for processing, recycling and shipping -- the base price is $6.95 for up to 20 lb. if you're supplying your own box -- or you can order a Technotrash Can, which holds up to 70 lb. of tech items for $49.95 (which includes postage).

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