Spring Cleaning: Recycle or Monetize Old Gadgets

March 30, 2010

12:39 pm

If you’re anything like me, your love for new gadgets or “shiny objects” as I like to call them, can result in having a few too many computers, MP3 players, televisions or other consumer electronic devices around the house.  Perhaps you recently bit the bullet and brought home a new 50” LCD HDTV, but still have the old 27” CRT model sitting on the floor or upgraded to a 32GB iPod Touch but haven’t parted with your 30 GB iPod Classic.  Spring Cleaning time is a great opportunity to get those older devices off the floor, out of your drawers or shelves, and maybe even put some cash back in your wallet for the next time you get the urge to upgrade.  More importantly, many options exist to keep your old devices out of land-fills since many of them, particularly old CRT monitors and televisions are laden with things like lead that are terrible for the environment.

Recycle It: If your old device is no longer useful to you or to anyone else, the clear choice is to recycle.  Even dead electronics contain certain components that can be harvested and re-used, and can often be done at no cost to you.   The entrance to every BestBuy store has bins where customers can deposit inkjet cartridges, rechargeable batteries, cell phones, CDs/DVDs, PDAs and smartphones for recycling.  It is a free service so be kind to our planet and deposit these items for recycling, rather than throwing them into the trash.   BestBuy will also accept nearly everything else electronic, including tube TVs and monitors up to 32″, flat-panel TVs and monitors up to 60″, peripherals, DVD players, home and car audio equipment and cables.  According to the store’s website, they will accept up to three items per household per day.  There is a fee of ten dollars ($10) for recycling tube television sets, but the store will issue a $10 BestBuy Gift Card on the spot, so it is really a break-even option and you’ll be saving the earth from contamination since those older sets contain large quantities of lead, mercury and other toxins.

Sell It: Several great options exist for those who want to turn their working devices into cash since not everyone cares about having the latest model. In fact, some items like prior generations of Apple computers, hold their value incredibly well, provided they have been treated with care, are in good working condition and are cosmetically in good shape. One of the easiest ways to sell your gear is a site called Gazelle.com.  By entering certain information about the make, model and specifications of your desktop, laptop, netbook or MP3 player, Gazelle will make you a conditional on-the-spot offer to buy the device(s).  If you accept, Gazelle will provide you with a printable postage-paid label to send it in for inspection.  Provided everything checks out, Gazelle will pay the amount originally offered to you by check, deposit to your PayPal account or with an electronic gift certificate for several on-online retailers.   It is important to be honest about the condition of your equipment when requesting an offer since Gazelle can reject the item and send it back to you if it was not as described.  I have successfully sold a number of devices using Gazelle, including a digital camera, two laptops and a second generation iPhone, and found the process to be convenient and easy. For those wanting to try and squeeze a few more bucks out of their used equipment than Gazelle is willing to pay, there is always Amazon, craigslist or eBay.  In addition, many companies have Intranet sites where their employees can post items for swap or for sale. The best advice for any of these options is to be realistic about what your used equipment is really worth, keeping in mind that if it is just sitting in a drawer or closet collecting dust, even a few dollars is better than nothing. If you are looking to get top dollar for your stuff, make sure you keep it in mint condition, retain original packaging, manuals, power adapters, software and other peripherals that came with each device.

Pass It Along: Your old iPod may not have enough space to store your growing music collection, but it may be just fine for a younger sibling, a spouse/partner or one of your parents.  It is a great way to introduce Mom or Dad to a new technology that they wouldn’t necessarily spend for, but are very appreciative to have.  It is also a good way to see if they’ll actually embrace and use the device before you spend money to buy them a newer model.  My Dad absolutely loves his iPod Nano, and takes it to the gym every time he works out.  While he cannot manage adding or removing music from the device, I pre-loaded his Nano with a library of songs that I know he likes, and taught him how to operate it.  At Age 76, he thinks he’s really hip and shows off his iPod whenever he can. He has since inherited an iHome sound dock, which allows him to charge the device and listen to it when he is working in his home office. When I purchased a new printer that has wireless technology, Mom and Dad were the benefactors of the old HP LaserJet, which still works great and is perfectly suitable for their needs. Likewise, churches, schools and other non-profit organizations are usually happy to accept good working computer equipment, so it is worth making a few calls to find an organization that can put your old stuff to good use.

This week, my brand-spanking new Apple iPad will arrive, and I’ll be faced with the decision of what to do with my trusty Amazon Kindle 2 e-reader.  Will I continue to use it?  Will I see what my friends at Gazelle are willing to give me to unload it, or will my Mom become the beneficiary of yet another “gently used” shiny object from her Son the tech geek? Only time will tell, but hopefully, I’ve provided some helpful suggestions for each of you to consider when spring cleaning your shiny objects.

Editor’s Note: This article was written by Bob Gurwin. Bob is an Assistant General Counsel for Platforms and Technologies in the Legal Department at AOL Inc. at the company’s offices in Dulles, Virginia, and is a self-professed tech geek and gadget head.

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Serving as an Assistant General Counsel for products and technology at AOL Inc. in Dulles, Virginia, Bob Gurwin is also a lecturer and consultant on legal issues relating to the Internet and other forms of electronic communication, including copyrights, trademarks, domain name registrations, and disputes; web site terms of use, privacy policies, hosting, and development agreements; Internet advertising; technology licensing; and a variety of information technology transactions. He is licensed to practice in Michigan, Illinois, and the District of Columbia, and as corporate counsel in Virginia. Bob is also a member of the adjunct faculties at John Marshall Law School in Chicago and Thomas M. Cooley Law School in Lansing, where he teaches courses in the master of laws programs in information technology and intellectual property. He holds a juris doctor degree from Case Western Reserve University School of Law and a master of laws degree in information technology from John Marshall Law School. Bob has written and frequently presents on information technology topics.

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