What do I do with an old tube TV or computer monitor?
First, don't throw it out! It's illegal, because these things contain an average of 6 pounds of lead and other metals that are toxic to the environment.
• Related: Go ahead, recycle that old TV
If you're still hanging on to one of these, know that you might have to pay a fee to have someone handle it responsibly for you. Best Buy stores accept TVs for free, and Hennepin County residents can take theirs to a drop-off site for free until July 1 (after that there's a $10 fee). Other recyclers, like Tech Dump, will take TVs for a fee.
What other electronic devices can be recycled?
Projectors, DVD players, VCRs, rechargeable batteries, alarm clocks, boomboxes, iPods and other MP3 players, digital cameras, camcorders, memory cards, cellphones, chargers, calculators, computers of all kinds, monitors, tablets, cables and adapters, receivers, printers. This is not a comprehensive list, but check with the recycler or retailer to see what items they accept. Also, many types of home appliances can also be recycled.
If I take my electronics to a recycler, what happens to them?
The collector, whether a retailer or recycling company itself, will look at your items to see if any are worth refurbishing and selling to someone else. Sometimes they might give you cash for your items, especially cellphones. If not, the recycler gets it. The recycling company will handle the disassembling of the items in-house or send them to another place that handles the items. Electronics are taken apart — computers, for instance, are separated into many different parts including cords, hard drives, fans, mother boards, screws, plastics. Depending on the part, they get ground up and the remaining materials are sold in the global commodity market.
How do I know my electronics aren't going to be shipped overseas and dumped in a developing country?
There are a couple of certification programs that audit recyclers for this reason. If a local recycler isn't certified, you can ask them what companies they do business with and do a little research on your own to make sure the companies are reputable.
Tech Dump, for example, is in the process of becoming certified but says all of the electronics it recycles stay in Minnesota and Wisconsin. If your electronics are still in working order, you can look for a recycler that has a refurbishing operation, which might make it more likely they'll be reused rather than recycled (reuse is the greener option).
What if I have data on my electronic devices that I want to make sure is destroyed?
When you're dropping your electronics off, ask the recycler how they ensure your data is safe until it's destroyed. Most collectors have a protocol for this, and certification programs also require that certain procedures are followed to keep data secure until it's destroyed.
Tech Dump, for instance, has a special area with a gate and extra security where computers are placed before hard drives are wiped. Best Buy encourages customers to wipe data on their own and provides instructions.
Why can't I just throw my electronics in the trash?
Most electronics contain hazardous materials ranging from mercury to cadmium to lead. If these metals reach a landfill, there's always a risk that the toxic materials could leach into the soil, or worse, water resources. Because of these risks, it's illegal to throw most electronics in the trash.
I tried to take my AA batteries to a recycling facility, but they wouldn't take them. Why?
Alkaline batteries used to contain mercury, but manufacturers have stopped using mercury since 1993. Alkaline batteries are recyclable, so some places will take them, but it's not something they make money off of, so some won't take them. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency says alkaline batteries manufactured after 1993 are one of the few electronics that can be thrown away, but it's illegal to throw away rechargeables and other types of batteries.