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Where Do I Put All These Old Cell Phones?

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Maybe this scenario is familiar to you: You're trying to clean out your life and you come upon a stash of once highly used but now "old news" cell phones, electronic cords, cameras, and battery chargers. Or maybe you have an old bulky and yellowed computer collecting dust in a corner that should instead be giving your house a bit more feng shui. "What in the world do I do with this?" is a common question. And you're not alone.  

Ever heard of e-waste? That's the name you can give all of your electronic products that have lost value in your day-to-day life. And unfortunately, it's becoming a big problem. E-waste is now the fastest growing category of waste in the U.S. and only 12.5% of it is currently being salvaged. What's more, it's hazardous and adds up to 70% of the United States' toxic waste.

The good news? There is an answer to your feng shui problem as well as a happy home for all your forlorn electronics. It's called recycling.

Many of your electronic products contain valuable metals and other materials that can be collected and reused. And qualified services that do this are everywhere. Here are a few you can check out:

  • Recycling programs in your city or county that offer services for electronics (such as Arcoa).
  • Major retailers, such as Sears, Best Buy, and True Value hardware stores. Be sure to check which specific products they accept.
  • E-waste recycling events. These are often hosted by non-profit organizations, schools, or private companies.
  • Internet companies that offer mail-in services. Some even pay you.
  • Your device's manufacturing company. Some offer credit toward other products.
  • Private companies. Business owners will find these particularly helpful as they often come and cart the unwieldy stuff away for you. And sometimes pay you to boot.
  • Nonprofits. They often focus on services that give old products to low-income families and needy schools.

So, what are you waiting for? Dust off those electronic has-beens and send them to a corner where they'll be more appreciated. Then take a step back and admire the extra breathing space in your abode. But don't overlook the shinier and more environmentally responsible person in the room. Pat yourself on the back. You can look at these facts now with a little more pride (and a little less guilt):

  • One million recycled cell phones can yield 772 lbs of silver, 75 lbs of gold, 33 lbs of palladium, and a whopping 35,274 lbs of copper.
  • If only one million laptops were recycled, it would save the same amount of energy as the electricity used by 3,657 U.S. homes in one year.
  • The amount of precious metals from electronic items that Americans throw out every year amounts to more than $60 million in gold and silver.