Have you noticed we have an ever-growing collection of technology gadgets we no longer use?
We may have some old flip phones that our new smartphones have made obsolete, for example.
Not to mention some not-so-old smartphones our new smartphones made obsolete.
Perhaps we have an original tablet, an e-reader, a desktop computer and maybe a few old TV sets. All things that were great when we got them but have been made obsolete by newer, faster, more functional models.
If you are like us, you have a drawer, closet, shelf or corner of the basement (maybe all three) that is loaded with these once state of the art devices which now only collect dust to the point of bunnies appearing out of nowhere.
This abundance of unwanted technology devices has a name – E-waste — and is a growing concern across the US.
Dealing With E-Waste
You may wonder what to do with your collection of old computers, digital gadgets and unwanted mobile technology but really weren’t sure how to approach it.
It’s important, before you begin, to take security precautions to clear any personal information from your devices. Now you are ready to find a new home for your dusty treasures.
- If you can, the first thing of course would be to find a way to reuse them, with potential benefits to your senior loved ones needs in mind. These old devices might be a good way to get them introduced to the technology. They will learn that they don’t break a computer by pushing the wrong button or lose all their photos when they hit enter. They can gain confidence in their skills. Also, some of our old phones that just make calls could be useful for some seniors who aren’t ready for a smartphone yet but want to be connected with wireless calling.
- Perhaps giving a young child one of your first tablets to play games on would be a good use for technology to save a few dollars or just make it useful again. We hesitate to pay full price for a tablet that will certainly be dropped, spilled on or left somewhere just to play games but an old one from which we have removed our personal information would be fun for the kids or grandkids.
- Many devices should not be thrown into landfills because they may contain hazardous materials that could be harmful to the environment. Most devices contain batteries or other substances that need to be handled safely. Be sure yours are safe to dispose of if you decide just to chuck them all!
- Some gadgets could be sold for others to re-purpose so that you could make a few bucks while you get to clean off the shelf. Don’t expect to become rich doing this because the resale value is very low on old technology. Some businesses may like to buy some tech gadgets just to use for parts to repair other gadgets. Again, be sure to remove all your personal information from devices first.
- There may be an organization near you that could benefit from a donation of some of your old technology. I heard that the photography club at my local high school wanted donations for the program. I gave them an old camera with all the zoom lenses that we used to love back in the 1990’s before our smartphones took all the photos we could use. They were so happy to get it to help kids learn about lighting and settings that will give them true hands on knowledge they could only previously read about. You never know what you have that might help others. You can also earn a tax deduction with your donation. Large national charities, such as Goodwill and the Salvation Army, accept donations of office equipment for use in their programs retraining workers.
- If you are in the market for a new device, there are some companies that offer buyback programs where you can turn in an old device for a discounted price or accept trade-ins as part of a promotion.
- Recycle your idle devices in the same way you recycle newspaper. There are e-recycling companies called E-Stewards that will reuse parts of these devices for recycling including the glass, metal and plastic components for use in other products. You might be able to recycle them at your local Staples store if they are participating in the electronics recycling program. Best Buy often allows you to drop off larger electronics items like TVs for recycling in their stores. You local community might also have a recycling program.
Consumer Electronic Devices Stats of Interest
The Consumer Electronics Association estimates there were over 169 million smartphones and almost 80 million tablets shipped in 2014.
That’s a lot of mobile devices in the hands of consumers that will be added to the shelf in the near future, not to mention the older devices many of those replaced!
Can you see the pile of idle devices — let’s call it what it is, E-waste — growing quickly as gently and often briefly used devices are replaced with the latest greatest innovations?
Did you realize that many users carry two, if not more, devices? Or that most keep their devices when they upgrade? Only 11% of us report that we are using pre-owned devices.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that there is 50 million tons of E-waste produced each year! They credit digital TV conversion in 2009 with the idling of 26.9 million TVs. Here’s some more interesting information from the EPA:
“Experts estimate that recycling 1 million cell phones can recover about 24 kg (50 lb) of gold, 250 kg (550 lb) of silver, 9 kg (20 lb) of palladium, and more than 9,000 kg (20,000 lb) of copper.”
A survey of 1,200 mobile users over the age of 18 was conducted by Compass Intelligence in 2014 to learn about E-waste and what consumers are doing with their old technology devices.
Here are a couple of highlights from their report.
- 63% said they has used a payback program or recycled a device in the past.
- In the last few years, rates of recycling of mobile devices has steadily increased with the current rate estimated at 22-25%.
We want our seniors to enter the digital age and reap all the benefits of being technologically connected, so we encourage family caregivers to think how their idle devices could benefit senior loved ones. If your devices are not suitable for them perhaps your family members, friends or even grandchildren have idle devices that would provide a great digital connection for your senior loved one!