Earth Day 2016: Where to Recycle Batteries, Gadgets

Many pieces of old technology include salvageable parts.

April 22, 2016, 9:13 AM

— -- Old batteries, cell phones and laptops can easily pile up, turning any office into an electronic wasteland.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates for every one million mobile devices recycled, 35 thousand pounds of copper, 772 pounds of silver, 75 pounds of gold and 33 pounds of palladium can be recovered. One million recycled laptops can also save the equivalent electricity used by 3,500 U.S. homes per year, according to the agency's website.

Earth Day is a great opportunity to get rid of tech clutter and recoup some precious resources for the environment, at the same time.

Recycling electronics is surprisingly easy. Here's how to get started:

Before You Recycle

As a safeguard, make sure your personal information is wiped from your devices. For old phones, the best way to do this is by doing a factory reset in setting, wiping your data from the device. The EPA also advises some batteries may need to be removed from products for separate recycling.

iPhones and Other Apple Products

Apple Renew, the company's recycling program, allows customers to bring older Apple products to their stores for recycling. Alternatively, they can print a pre-paid mailing label online and send the devices to the company for recycling.

The iPad 2, iPhone 4, Macs from 2007 or newer may be eligible for gift cards, depending on the condition. Customers can still bring in old iPods, excluding the iPod Shuffle, to an Apple store and get 10 percent off a new one, according to Apple's website.

What happens to those old iPhones?

Meet Liam, Apple's robot, which made its world debut last month. He can take apart more than 1.2 million iPhones in a year, extracting different components to be re-used or recycled. Liam can "rescue" cobalt and lithium from iPhone batteries, separate gold and copper from the camera and extract silver and platinum from the main logic board, according to Apple.

Other Smartphones

Many smartphone manufacturers and carriers offer mail-in and in-store recycling options. Samsung and LG let customers mail-in their old devices, while carriers such as Sprint, Verizon, T-Mobile all offer various recycling programs -- some as simple as dropping off an old device at a store.


Many single-use batteries contain materials that can be recycled, including zinc, manganese and steel. Rechargeable batteries also contain materials such as lead, plastic and metal, that can be used again. Call2Recycle offers a quick search tool to show drop-off locations for batteries in your area.

Check with local city websites to see if they have programs. Alternatively, Call2Recycle offers a quick search tool to show drop-off locations for batteries and other electronics, with many recycling points located at stores, such as Radio Shack, Lowe's and Home Depot.

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