Technology devices permeate everyday life, but what do you do with the gear that’s broken, obsolete or simply no longer the love of your electronic life?
Before tossing away any technology devices, it’s important to take steps to protect your digital life. This is especially relevant to any memory-based devices, which will have evidence of your identity stored on them.
So unless you’re prepared to have your data integrity compromised, wipe any memory cards, hard drives and other storage devices before disposing of them. That means not just deleting their contents, but also reformatting the disc or card.
Even then, hardcore geeks say you can’t trust this process, believing that there is always a chance that data can be recovered. If you’re similarly paranoid, store all your hard drives in a box, preferably with a sachet of silica gel inside to help prevent mould build-up.
If you’re selling or giving away a laptop, make sure to backup all the data first and then wipe the computer clean. Symantec’s Norton Utilities can assist with deleting files, while Acronis Drive Cleaners can help out by wiping the drive completely.
“Remember, simply pressing ‘delete’ does not make a file go away,” said David Hall, Consumer Spokesperson for Symantec Australia. “File recovery programs can still retrieve deleted files unless you take more serious measures.”
Take the same precaution with your smartphone. In the absence of helpful software, we recommend running a factory reset to force the hardware to rewrite over itself. Do this a couple of times, and then do it once more time –just for good measure.
Turn to eBay
Once you’ve deleted the data you don’t need and backed up what you do, you’re ready to deal with your electronic wastage.
There are many online channels for getting rid of electronics and turning a buck into the bargain. Most people will look first to eBay, but other options include Trading Post, GumTree, and QuickSales. Listing your items on all will expand the number of potential buyers you can reach, but because many of these sites charge a fee for listing items, your selling costs will also increase.
Be aware, too, that unless the product has become an uber-cool collector’s item, you’re never going to get anything near what you paid for it. Most electronics items – especially phones and computers – diminish in value the moment you remove them from the box. Well-used items demonstrating wear and tear or superseded technology – think non-3G phones, computers with last year’s processors – may not find a buyer at all.
Don’t forget to consider the logistics of delivering your sale items. With some tech products too large or fragile to post or transport safely and cost effectively, your potential buyers may be limited to those who can pick-up in person. Fewer buyers means less competition, and potentially less money in your pocket.
Another option is to give your tech to charities or schools. While someone might not be willing to pay top dollar for old tech, someone with nothing can get just as much use as you had if it’s given for free.
Contact organisations such as the Salvation Army, Technical Aid to the Disabled, Computer Bank, and Computer Technologies for Schools to find out if your donations could be accepted.
Or check in with one of the schools, community centres or refuges in your area to find out if what you intend dumping could benefit them.
Talk to your council about e-waste
If there are no takers for your pile of e-crap, there are better ways to get rid of it than tossing it onto the side of the road.
Australian city councils are actually being fairly proactive when it comes to e-waste, going so far as to have annual electronics collections where you can pack the car, drive up, and give it all to them to take it away for you.
We had first-hand experience of this initiative recently, managing to dispose of an embarrassing amount of old componentry – including a heavy Loewe TV, four VCRs, several fax machines, three coffee machines, three large CRT monitors, plus an assortment of random gadgets – in a single excursion.
All of this was packed into a car, driven down to the council clean-up bins, organised for us, and then taken out and thrown into large containers by people paid to deal with this stuff.
From there, the recyclers sort through the plastic, glass, metal, and trace amounts of gold used in our electronic gadgets and reuse them in other projects. And our excess tech was gone from our life, never to bother us again. Very cleansing, it was.
Now, onto more important issues…
How to stay free of e-waste
You can never truly be free of electronic waste, as many of today’s gadgets will necessarily be replaced with newer, better models. But you can be concsious of how much e-waste you accumulate and, over time, deal with it accordingly.
Think, for example, about how you might repurpose equipment, using components to either extend its life or the usefulness of other equipment. Old technology isn’t necessarily bad technology, and many monitors, keyboards, sound systems, TVs and radio can find a home in secondary areas of your house – or the homes of people you know.
Going forward, it’s good to be aware of what you buy. We’re certainly don’t want to discourage you from your technology habit, but try to purchase only the technology that you need and use.
And when you do, choose well-built products that promises some longevity. We all like to save money, but buying a $49 printer multiple times because it’s cheaper than replacing the ink cartridges is not just a false economy, it adds up to a big fat e-waste footprint.