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The E-waste lurking in your junk drawer

A tablet and cell phone are stacked on an open laptop

Tips and tricks for finally getting rid of those old electronics

E-waste – everyone has it, but not everyone knows what to do with it. Electronic waste (e-waste) is any old electronic device that is no longer useable or working, including outdated computers, cellphones, televisions, light bulbs, and batteries. Have you experienced that moment of pause before you throw away an electronic item that you are not quite sure can go in the trash? Good thinking – the electronics many of us use every day contain valuable metals and materials that can be recycled, and they also have toxic chemicals that should not end up in landfills. 

Before you toss that old device in the trash can or put it back into the junk drawer, read on for some quick and easy ways to reuse, recycle, or dispose of e-waste.


Batteries contain chemicals and metals that together create a reaction that generates electrical energy. Once a battery stops powering a device or can’t hold a charge, it’s time to dispose of it. The Hazardous Waste Management Program accepts batteries at hazardous waste collection sites. Accepted batteries include alkaline, button, removable cellphone batteries, laptop lead-acid, rechargeable, and car batteries. When disposing of batteries, make sure you tape the ends of the batteries to reduce a fire hazard. 

You can also recycle batteries at some grocery and home improvement stores, such as Best Buy, The Home Depot, Staples, and Lowe’s. These stores have battery recycling programs that allow you to drop off batteries in bins at the store free of charge. Call2Recycle is another resource for information and locations if you’re looking to dispose of batteries. 

Light bulbs

Recycling light bulbs prevents the release of toxic mercury into the environment and allows reuse of the other materials in the bulbs. All components of a fluorescent bulb – glass, metals, and other materials – can be recycled!

Halogen light bulbs do not use mercury so are not hazardous and can be disposed of as regular trash. The Haz Waste Program accepts compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs, neon lights, ultraviolet lamps, and Green Fluorescent bulbs and tubes at hazardous waste collection sites. But we only accept up to ten light bulbs per visit – if you have more than ten, you can take ten bulbs to an authorized Light Recycle Washington collection site or contact EcoLights. Put bulbs in a bag or closed container to keep broken glass from spreading. 

Even more e-waste? Repair, donate, or recycle

If possible, try to repair your old electronic product. Before you get rid of your old TV, computer, or other electronic device, you can search for online video or blog tutorials for tips on how to upgrade or repair it. If your device is working and in good condition, someone else may be able to use it.

If repair or reuse isn’t an option, consider donating your electronics:
E-Cycle Washington allows Washington State residents to recycle their electronics for free by dropping them off at an authorized E-Cycle Washington collection site. To date, the E-Cycle WA Program has collected 439,718,815 pounds of electronics!  
Check out this list of common electronics and what to know before you recycle them: 
  • Cellphones and other Smart Devices
    Some cellphone providers offer trade-in, buy-back, and recycling programs for old cellphones. Visit the EPA website to find a list of companies that will recycle your cellphone or smart device. Remember to delete all personal information before recycling. 

  • Computers and Laptops
    Recycle for free at all E-Cycle WA locations. HP and Dell also offer free drop-off locations for computers and laptops. Remember to delete all personal information before recycling. 

  • Computer Accessories
    The E-Cycle WA Program does not recycle these items, but stores like Best Buy and Staples will recycle keyboards, printers, and toner cartridges at no charge.  

  • Televisions
    Most E-Cycle WA locations will recycle old TVs. Call ahead to ask about badly damaged TVs before heading to a drop off center.  

  • Video Game Consoles
    Several drop-off locations will recycle your old video game console for a small fee. Visit to check locations available for drop-off. 
Don’t be daunted by the growing pile of old electronics you’ve accumulated – there are so many ways to safely and easily recycle or dispose e-waste. Do you know someone who needs to get rid of their flip phone from high school or AAA batteries that have been dead for a decade? Share this article so more of us can clear our junk drawers of e-waste! 

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