Our computers, peripherals and gadgets use a range of batteries including alkaline batteries, rechargeable batteries, button batteries and UPS batteries. In previous Tech Tips I mentioned that UPS batteries can be recycled at Staples and Interconnection will take laptop batteries. If you want to find one location that’ll take just about every kind of battery, check out the King County Solid Waste Division’s web site. This web page let’s you locate organizations that’ll let you recycle batteries. In fact, their web site helps to find locations to recycle many items including: appliances, carpet, Christmas trees, cleaning products, electronics, fluorescent lights, furniture, microwave ovens, paint and many other items.
In previous Tech Tips, I’ve recommended that you donate your old computer and computer peripherals to Interconnection. I like this group so much that I’d like to tell you more about them.
Interconnection is a non-profit based in Seattle. They are more then an electronics recycling company. They are Washington State’s largest computer refurbisher. They have sent 25,000 refurbished computers to 40 countries by teaming with World Concern, the Peace Corps, World Vision and other non-profit groups. Additionally, they have given 4,000 low-income people computer maintenance and repair skills. They are a very responsible recycler and are the first recycle in the US to have earned both R2 and ISO 14001 certifications.
Interconnection often offers special deals on slightly used computers for low-income people. Currently, they are selling laptops for $170 and reduced cost Internet service through CenturyLink, a local phone company.
You can donate the following items for free: computers, laptops, monitors, keyboards, mice, cords, memory modules, hard drives, small speakers, cell phones, ink cartridges, television sets, printers, scanners and other computer peripherals. Check their web site for a list of items that they do and don’t accept.
Interconnection offers free secure erasing of your hard drives which over-writes all of the data on the drive, if the drives is operable. If not, they will physically destroy the hard drive. They offer free pick-ups for business customers with 3 or more computers.
In 2011 Interconnection moved to 1109 35th St in the Fremont neighborhood. They are right off of Stone Way. No appointment is needed. Simply make your donations between these hours: Mon-Fri 10-6 or Sat 10-5. They are closed on Sunday. Also check out their retail store of used computers and peripherals. Check their web site for any changes to their hours of operation or location.
Do you have an old UPS (uninterrupted power supply) that you need to recycle? How about a paper shredder? You can recycle both of these items, as well as other items, at your Staples office supply store.
I use a UPS, also known as a battery backup, to protect my Mac from power spikes and to keep it running during brief power outages. After years of use my old UPS died, so I wanted to recycle it. Apparently, Staples has teamed up with APC, a manufacturer of UPSs to recycle them. Yesterday, I dropped off my worn-out UPS at a Staples here in Seattle. I was pleasantly surprised that there was no cost. Staples’ web site indicates that there’s a $10 recycle fee, but Staples has a special through the end of the month which includes waiving that fee. If you don’t have a Staples nearby, you might be interested to read about APC’s own UPS recycling options.
I also had a paper shredder which had died on me. Staples took the entire shredder and pledged to recycle it responsibly. The typical $10 recycle fee was waived. The Staples employee also indicated that they’d offer a slight discount on the purchase of a new paper shredder if you bring in an old one for recycling.
Staples will also recycle rechargeable batteries, digital cameras and GPS devices. They’ll also accept computers, monitors and printers, but indicated that there is typically a $10 recycle fee for these items. This was a bit surprising since Washington enacted a law a couple of years ago which allows for free recycling of such items. As I’ve mentioned in a previous tech tip, I typically recycle my computers and peripherals at Interconnection since they do their best to re-use the equipment rather then simply recycle it.
Do you have a pile of old zip disks, floppy disks or videotapes that you want to get rid of? If your pile isn’t too large then you could hand it to me at our next appointment and I’ll send it on to GreenDisk. If your pile is larger or you aren’t one of my clients, you can mail it to GreenDisk. GreenDisk is located in Sammamish, Washington, but they don’t have any drop-off centers. For $9.95 you can ship up to 25 pounds to Greendisk.
GreenDisk actually accepts a wide range of technotrash via their mail-in service. Their web site includes an up-to-date list of everything accepted by GreenDisk. Currently they accept the following:
• Media: CDs, CD-Rs, CD-RWs, DVDs, Blu-ray, 3.5” and 5.25” floppy disks, zip and jazz disks, and cases
• Tapes: VHS, audio cassette tapes, DAT, DLT, Beta, and Digibeta
• Computer drives: Hard drives, zip, jazz, floppy, CD-ROM, DVD, jump drives
• Communication devices: Cell phones, pagers, PDAs and their chargers, cradles, and headset accessories
• Batteries: Rechargeable batteries and chargers only – no alkaline batteries. See instructions on packing batteries for shipment.
• Small electronics: MP3 players, iPods, hand-held CD and cassette players, and digital cameras
• Ink: Inkjet and toner cartridges (All cartridges must be in a sealed bag to prevent spilling.)
- Photographic film negatives, instant film, sheet film, Advanced Photo System, slides, Disc film, 110, 126, 127, 120/220
- Black and white or undeveloped only: Motion picture film, film reels, Super 8, 8mm, 9.5mm, 16mm, 35mm, 70mm
- Medical x-ray, industrial x-ray, lithographic, micro film, microfiche
• Miscellaneous items: UPS units, AC chargers, keyboards, mice, modems, routers, headphones, cords, adaptors, cables, boards, and chips
In previous tech tips, I’ve talked about ways to donate your computer and peripherals to groups that will reuse or recycle them. In some instances your used electronics may still have some value. Here’s an overview of options you have to resell your used electronics to a company, which, in turn, will refurbish and resell or recycle them.
Recently, there has been a proliferation of companies that will buy your used electronics, including Gazelle, FlipSwap and BuyMyTronics, to name a few. These companies tend to claim to offer the best price, but they can’t all be right. Enter uSell, which offers to find the best price by comparing quotes from numerous companies. uSell may not include quotes from every company, but they offer a guarantee if you find a lower price.
I recently sold some of my used electronics to Gazelle and FlipSwap. In each case, the process was quite easy. I typed the name of my product into a search field on the company’s web site. The search results let me pick my particular model. I then answered a few questions about the product’s condition and accessories. After that, I accepted the price that was offered. Finally, there was a short check out-like process. Gazelle offered to send me a box and return shipping label or I could ship it in my own box. FlipSwap provided me with a shipping label and instructed me how to securely wrap and ship my item. Once the company received my product, they assessed the item and sent my payment. In Gazelle’s case, I chose to receive an Amazon gift card instead of a check since Gazelle would add an additional 5%.
You have choices when you want to re-use, recycle or destroy a hard drive. Let’s look at a few common scenarios.
You have a computer that you want to retire or give to somebody else.
In this situation, the hard drive works properly. You just want to securely erase your data before giving the computer to another person. Thus, you want to securely erase the hard drive and then reinstall Mac OS X. Follow the instructions in my previous Tech Tip article on how to securely erase a hard drive. If you don’t want to do this work yourself, you could take your computer to an organization like Interconnection or Total Reclaim. Both of these organizations offer free data wiping of all hard drives on donated computers. I tend to use Interconnection as much as possible since they are a non-profit group that does their best to re-use the computer, while Total Reclaim is a for-profit company which focuses on recycling computers and other electronics.
You have an external hard drive that you want to re-use or sell, but first you want to remove all of your personal data from it.
This is very similar to the first situation. The hard drive works properly and you want to re-use the hard drive. Thus, you should securely erase the data from the hard drive using the instructions in my previous Tech Tip.
You have a hard drive that died and you need to get rid of it, but want to make sure that nobody can ever get any of the data.
Since the hard drive is not working properly, we can’t securely erase the hard drive as described above. Instead, the hard drive will need to be destroyed. You could either do this yourself or have somebody else do it. If you want to do it yourself, you could secure the drive in a drill press and drill a few holes through it. This would destroy the circuit boards and, most importantly, the platters containing your data. If you want somebody else to destroy it then I recommend using an organization like Interconnection or Total Reclaim.
If your printer’s toner or ink cartridge is completely empty, it can be put in the trash according to the City of Seattle’s web site. Otherwise, you should recycle it using any of the following methods.
Many office supply stores like OfficeMax, OfficeDepot and Staples typically offer recycling services. Some of them will give you a small store credit if you’ve signed up for their “rewards program.” For example, Staples lets you recycle up to 10 cartridges per user per month and will give you $2 in Staples Rewards.
Check with the store where you purchased the cartridge. Many offer refill and recycle services, including BestBuy and Cartridge World. Both have stores in the greater Seattle area.
Look at the instructions in the box of your new laser or ink jet cartridge to find out how to recycle your old one. Many manufacturers will provide instructions, packaging materials and free postage if you wish to recycle your old cartridge, which is then refilled and used again.
Use the Earth911 web site to find an organization near you that will recycle printer cartridges.
Have you wondered how to properly dispose of compact fluorescent lamps? Compact fluorescent lamps (CFL or sometimes just CF) are energy efficient light bulbs that contain very small amounts of mercury, so they need to be properly handled and thus can’t be put directly in your trash. The City of Seattle’s web site has a page providing tips and information about CF bulbs, including the mercury they contain.
To properly dispose of compact fluorescent lamps, also called compact fluorescent bulbs, one can take them to any Take It Back Network recycler who handles fluorescent bulbs, but I find it convenient to take mine to one of the 56 Bartell Drug stores in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties. Bartell Drugs started their CF bulb recycling program in 2008. Simply give your unbroken CF bulb to any store clerk or put it in their recycle bin. Bartell has partnered with Total Reclaim, who says “the used bulbs will be completely recycled, including glass, aluminum, plastic and mercury”.
April 2012 Update: I learned the Puget Sound Energy has a web page to locate a place to recycle incandescent and/or compact fluorescent light bulbs in your part of Puget Sound.
This is the first in a series of articles about how to easily recycle your Macintosh computer, monitor, printer, ink and toner cartridges, batteries, cell phones and other electronics commonly used in small businesses or around the home. I live in Seattle so I focus on Seattle and King County, but many of these resources are available in the greater Puget Sound area.
In 2006, Sally Deneen, a Seattle resident, wrote a good overview about How to Recycle Practically Anything. There’s a lot of good information in this article but some details have changed over the years.
Starting in 2009, Washington State joined other states in offering an e-cycle program. It is a free, convenient and environmentally responsible recycling program for computers, monitors, laptops and televisions. It is for households and small businesses, schools, non-profits and others. Be aware that computer peripherals such as keyboards, mice and printers are not included in this program.
Many of the organizations that participate in the E-Cycle Washington program also belong to the Take It Back Network. This network operates in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties. It’s a group of retailers, repair shops, non-profit organizations, waste haulers and recyclers that offer convenient options for recycling certain products that should not be disposed of in the trash. I can’t give you an exhaustive list of all of the items that various groups take, but here’s a partial list of what one can recycle: audio and video equipment, cell phones, printers, computer peripherals, copiers, fax machines, PDAs, pagers, tapes, discs, video game consoles, and circuit boards.
One can use this eCycling Center web site to locate recycling resources across the country. One of my preferred recyclers is Interconnection, located in Fremont. While they are a highly certified recycler, they try to reuse as much equipment as possible. They test all equipment that is donated and make some computers and equipment available to low-income individuals, people who volunteer their time at Interconnection and local non-profit organizations. Additionally, they ship some computers to overseas groups who can put them to use. I donate most of my computers, monitors, printers, scanners and other peripherals at Interconnection and encourage you to consider them as well.
In future articles I’ll provide more detail about how to recycle specific items like compact fluorescent lamps, zip disks, floppy disks, video tapes, film and other items.
Also, if your computer or other equipment is not broken, you could donate it an organization that will attempt to donate the equipment so it gets reused instead of recycled.