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What to Do With Your Old Electronics

Getting rid of old electronics is a little more complicated than your average bag of recycling. Sometimes they have sensitive data, specialized components that can’t be disposed of with regular waste, or can be valuable. Here are your options. 

Wipe & Donate 

Anything that still works and has a hard drive (computers, phones, tablets, etc.) should have all the data removed (i.e., wiped) before it is sold or donated. Here’s our guide on wiping a phone. If you don’t have a tech-savvy nephew to help wipe data from your device, most computer stores can help. 

Your newly clean device can be given to someone else. Charities like reBOOT Canada will distribute your device to someone who needs it. Occasionally, charities or the police will spearhead phone drives for those in need. 


If your device still works, is relatively new, and is clean of data, you can try selling it on sites like Kijiji or through a trading group like Bunz. Video game consoles, game accessories, drones, smartphones, and record players tend to do very well. With other devices, your mileage may vary. Note that devices like computers lose value very quickly. 

Remove & Destroy Hard Drives

If you have a device that doesn’t work anymore and you’d like to dispose of it, first remove the hard drive. Your hard drive likely has sensitive information on it that can’t be trusted in other hands. Many computer repair stores will remove a hard drive for you for a nominal fee. 

There are services out there that destroy hard drives. For example, the government of British Colombia has a program to destroy hard drives for a nominal fee. The Electronic Recycling Association of Canada also shreds hard drives. And they pick up nearly any kind of electronics you may have. 

Recycle Batteries (At Designated Places)

Batteries are especially bad for the environment. Improperly disposed of batteries leach toxic chemicals into the soil, damage human health, and can contaminate the water table. Get a small waste basket especially for old batteries. Most cities have battery recycling or disposal programs. Alternatively, stores like Ikea and Canadian Tire offer battery recycling to their customers. 

Start a Cable Drawer 

Cables tend to be useful for longer than the devices they came with. Keep a drawer full of your cables that still work but you don’t need day to day. After all, it never hurts to have spare phone chargers, Ethernet cords, or HDMI cables

Donate Non-Sensitive Electronics 

When you have devices that have no data on them, aren’t especially valuable, and still work, like old speakers, TVs, and keyboards, donate them to places like Goodwill or Value Village. Someone, somewhere will thank you. 

Don’t Burn Anything 

Don’t listen to anyone who says that you can dispose of electronics in a burn pit or says that it’s the only safe way to destroy a hard drive. Burning electronics is especially dangerous for human health and the environment. Even if you are very tempted to set fire to your printer, don’t do it. 

Check Local Regulations 

Your municipality’s waste division will have details about what can and can’t be put in the garage and/or recycled. If your town isn’t big enough to handle e-waste, you may have to leave it for a trip to the city. 

The Bottom Line

E-waste is becoming a major environmental problem. The more we can do to refurbish, reuse, or properly recycle our electronics, the better off we will all be.