With new phones, tablets and laptops debuting every month, rapid advancements in technology can quickly turn a beloved tech device into an outdated waste of space. Bu although throwing them away is a convenient option, the impact of the billions of pounds this e-waste could have on the environment are frightening. So whether your computer has stopped to functioning or you’ve simply decided to upgrade, here’s a look at top options for how to recycle your electronics.
Greener Gadgets – Presented by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), the Greener Gadgets site is designed to help you easily find areas where you can recycle your old electronics simply by entering your zip code. Greener Gadgets is part of the organization’s “eCycling” effort to facilitate the recycling of one billion pounds of electronics every year. In the first two years of service, the number of eCycling centers has grown by more than 50%, and the number of pounds collected has nearly doubled.
The Greener Gadgets site also offers lots of information on ways to cut down your consumption and educate yourself about using less power and resources. In addition to tips for “Living Green” and “Buying Green,” the site features a handy calculator that helps you figure out how much your electronics usage costs, encouraging you to cut back on your consumption. You can quickly tabulate your monthly and yearly power costs for dozens of different devices.
uSell – uSell offers a chance for consumers to make a few dollars as they put their still-functioning devices directly into the hands of buyers who are experts at refurbishing and reselling electronics. The site lets you list your cell phones, digital cameras, MP3 players, tablets, game consoles and eReaders up for auction, and once a buyer is secured, you receive free mailing materials and shipping to send it along.
Goodwill – In partnership with Dell, Goodwill accepts most forms of electronics at their collection sites, regardless of brand or condition. Simply make sure you find a nearby location that accepts them, and drop your item off and receive a tax-deductible donation receipt.
Manufacturer Sites – AT&T and Verizon offer customers the chance to bring in any cell phones or other accessories to their store for recycling, with the Verizon program dedicated to providing refurbished phones to victims of domestic violence. LG’s Ecomobilize site allows you to find easy ways to either drop off or mail in your device, including the ability to request mailing info simply by texting a message to LG.
Retail Sites –Best Buy allows consumers to bring in up to two items a day per household into any of their US stores for recycling. Office Depot sells small, medium and large boxes for $5 – $15 in which you can place however many electronics you can fit and bring it back to the store for recycling. Staples offers in-store collection bins for small items, and will accept larger items such as monitors, printers and copiers, with a limit of six items per day.
Additional Electronics Recycling Resources
Earth 911 – Helps you find recycling centers for many types of goods, including electronics.
Call2Recycle – Offers a map of locations to recycle old cell phones and rechargeable batteries
eRecycle.org – A site set up specifically for California residents to find information and locations for electronics recycling
Unless you decide to go with a pre-paid cellular service, major cell phone carriers require a two-year commitment from you in order to cheaply obtain and use many of today’s most popular and desirable mobile phones. Signing up can be daunting, so here are a few things to look for and remember as you’re shopping around. Be sure you’ve researched the below information, which explains what to know when cell phone plans are reviewed, before committing to an ongoing contract.
Do the Math
Companies know what they’re doing when they charge you by the month instead of quoting you a yearly rate. It’s a lot more palatable to consider spending $100 a month than it is to consider that you’re paying $1200 over the course of the year. But since we often think of our income on scales of a year, make sure to multiply your projected bill by 12 to make sure it fits into your overall income, and that you’re comfortable making that commitment.
Know Your Limits
Make sure you and everyone on your plan has a clear understanding of their monthly limits for minutes, data usage and text messaging. Mobile phone providers love charging outrageous overage fees, so your best bet is to sign up for a plan that you know you won’t exceed, and then look at your usage over the first couple of months and adjust as appropriate.
Be a Tweaker
Monitor your usage, and make sure you’re using a plan that’s right for you. Companies make it easier than ever to track your usage, whether it’s from the computer via your account portal or even via easy apps. Look at your usage, and if you’re going way under or way over your limits, investigate other plan options.
Know what happens if you cancel on the contract. Most services will have high cancellation fees in the first year, but they may diminish as you get closer to the end of your contract. Since life always seems to throw curveballs and changing circumstances at us, it’s good to know what will happen should you need to make an unexpected switch.
If you’re traveling abroad, or even think you’ll be close to another country (like in Seattle or Detroit for example – apologies, we kid), make sure you’re aware of the consequences of roaming. You can set your plan to not allow these types of charges in order to avoid any fees, but often you can find that signing up for an international plan for the duration of your trip is more reasonable than you might expect.
The old axiom for depreciating value used to be driving a car off a car phone lot, but these days it seems that the moment you commit to a new smartphone, a new and cooler one is announced or released days later, often of the same model. If you’re one of those who needs to be at the cutting edge as an early adopter, be prepared to pay full price for devices unless you’re within your plan’s window near the end of the contract which allows upgrade. Ask about this at the time of purchase so you know whether to upgrading is a realistic option for you or not.
Know How To Make Changes
Utilize the management tools your provider gives you. Know and remember your account password, and download any monitoring apps your provider offers. Make a habit to check in on these at least once a month, but it’s often useful to look a couple times so you can see how your usage is distributed as the month progresses. Even though mobile companies are out to make money (and they make a lot of it), they also provide great service and ease for their customers, it’s simply a matter of taking the time to access it.
Many of the best pre-paid cell phone plans come with no contracts, and are continuing to gain in popularity, with major cell phone carriers like T-Mobile and AT&T noting their first declines in contract-based plans in early 2012. Pre-paid plans are great for professionals, families and kids as they allow you to pay for the services you use and avoid for paying for extra features you don’t. But there are hidden fees and technological limitations to many pre-paid plans, so here are several things to consider to know if prepaid is the way to go for you.
Advantages of pre-paid plans:
- No chance of crazy overages. You’re only on the hook for what you paid for, and after that you can’t exceed your limits. If self-discipline is a problem for you or your kids, pre-paid is a great way to ensure they don’t use more than they can.
- No contracts on pre-paid plans ,make them a perfect option for short-term usage. Whether you’re on an extended business trip, a vacation or are potentially between phones, pre-paid is the perfect solution if you only need a phone for a few weeks or months.
- Prepaid phones also provide a good test of usage habits before locking into long term plan. If you’re scared of making a commitment to a two-year contract because you just don’t know how much texting or calling you really want to do, prepaid can provide a nice test run as you settle on a more permanent option.
Disadvantage of pre-paid plans:
- Hidden Fees can surprise you. While you may think you’re getting a certain number of minutes for what you spent, carriers sometimes charge daily access fees that can quickly add up.
- You can lose your minutes. You paid for them, so you better hope you use them. Without rollover solutions, you may end up paying for more minutes than you actually use.
- Prepaid plans often only provide the most basic phones. If you want the latest and coolest smartphones and gadgets, you’re likely out of luck if you are using prepaid plans. Although there are some nice phones to be had that may seem a bit outdated but still powerful, they are not the top of the line versions.
- No ability to transfer phone number after your prepaid service. Prepaid numbers stay with the prepaid service, so if after a couple months you decide to switch to a plan with a two-year contract, you’ll likely need to get a new phone number.
If you’re interested in the different prepaid cell phone plans available, here’s an overview of some of the most popular:
Virgin Mobile – Plans start as low as $35 a month with unlimited data and messaging on all their offerings. For more money, you can get more voice minutes.
Cricket – Buy an inexpensive phone and pair it with their plan. Cricket also highlights their Muve Music library and includes downloads and music playback as a key feature of their service.
Metro PCS – Offering unlimited plans along with the ability to keep your number, offers plans by the minute, by the week or by the month, and can cost anywhere from around $40 to $70 per month.
Verizon Wireless – Offering $50 a month plans for basic phones and $80 a month plans for smartphones, Verizon is trying to capture pre-paid customers who are balking at two-year contracts.
US Cellular – US Cellular offers standard and prepaid plans, but is only available in certain parts of the country. For only $10 per month, you can get a voice only plan, or upgrade to as much as $70 per month to get unlimited data and messaging.
AT&T GoPhone – With a ton of different pricing options, GoPhone lets you pay $50 for an unlimited plan, or a $2 daily rate that allows unlimited calls and texting only on the days you use it.