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Earth Day 2024: Where and How to Recycle Your Old Computers and Printers for Free

 Earth Day 2024: Where and How to Recycle Your Old Computers and Printers for Free


This Earth Day, do your part to ease the burden on our landfill. Instead of throwing away your old laptops, desktops and printers, choose one of the many ways you can responsibly recycle them for free and sometimes even for store credit. 

This story is part of CNET Zero, a series that chronicles the impact of climate change and explores what’s being done about the problem.

In some states, including California, throwing them away is actually illegal and can draw large fines. And disposing of such items can be as simple as bringing them to major retailers such as Best Buy, OfficeMax, Office Depot and Staples. 

It’s a necessary habit to get into, as well. According to a new UN report, consumers around the world are throwing away about five times more gadgets than are being recycled. 

Here’s what you need to know about recycling your old tech.

Read more: Why Our Gadgets Aren’t Getting Recycled Enough, and How You Can Help

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Wherever you choose to take or mail in your items to be recycled, you’ll want to make sure that you protect your data by removing it as best you can before you do so. One way to do this is to perform a factory reset on your computer. Our guide talks you through the process.

Some retail stores will accept computers and printers for recycling, but it’s not always a free service. Policies vary by company.

Apple 

You can recycle your old Apple computers, monitors and peripherals such as printers for free at an Apple Store, but there’s a costly catch. According to the Apple Free Recycling program, in order to receive this service, you must also purchase a qualifying Apple computer or monitor. Need another option? A third-party company called Gazelle buys old MacBooks to recycle them. After accepting Gazelle’s offer, you print out a prepaid label or request a prepaid box and ship the machine to them.

Read more: Phone and Laptop Repair Is Going Mainstream, With a Big Push From iFixit

Best Buy

Best Buy generally accepts up to three household items per person per day to be recycled for free, and that includes desktop computers and printers, as well as other items, ranging from e-readers to vacuum cleaners. While three is the limit for most items, there’s a higher standard for laptops — Best Buy will take five of those per household per day. Note that rules for dropping off monitors vary by state, and it’s not always free to do so.

Best Buy also offers a mail-in recycling service for select items, but that’s also not free. A small box that holds up to 6 pounds costs $23, while a large box (up to 15 pounds) costs $30.

Office Depot and OfficeMax

Office Depot and OfficeMax merged in 2013. The retailers offer a tech trade-in program both in-store and online where customers may be able to get a store gift card in exchange for their old computers and printers. If the device has no trade-in value, the company will recycle it for free.

Office Depot also sells its own tech recycling boxes that you can fill up with electronics to be recycled and then drop off at the stores, but they aren’t free. The small boxes cost $8.39 and hold up to 20 pounds; the medium ones cost $18.29 and hold up to 40 pounds; and the large cost $28 and hold up to 60 pounds.

Staples

You can bring your old desktop computers, laptops, printers and more to the Staples checkout counter to be recycled for free, even if they weren’t purchased there. The retailer also has a new free at-home battery recycling box which, according to a rep, has led to customers recycling thousands of batteries per week, up from an earlier average of 50 batteries per week. Here’s a list of everything that can be recycled at Staples.

Read more: How to Factory Reset a MacBook, Windows Laptop or Chromebook

If you don’t live near a major retailer or would rather take your computers and printers to a recycling center, you can locate places close to you by using search tools provided by Earth911 and the Consumer Technology Association.

Earth911

Use the recycling center search function on Earth911 to find recycling centers near your ZIP code that accept laptops, desktops and printers. Note that the results may also turn up some places that accept mobile phones and not computers or printers, so you may have to do a little filtering.

CTA’s Greener Gadgets

Consult the Consumer Technology Association’s Greener Gadgets Recycle Locator to find local recycling centers in your area that will take old items. The search function also allows you to filter the results to separately hunt for places that take computers versus printers.



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