Recyling Gadgets Proactively

How many tech gadgets do you have in your home desk drawer, closet or garage? My guess is at least 10 to 20 items if you've been around in popular tech for at least the last 10 years. The problem is, the tech becomes useless very quickly, maybe within two to three years. After that, it can't keep up speed-wise, won't connect to the latest OS requirements, or the company that supported it has folded and disappeared. Sometimes it's all of the above! However, whatever the case, tech gets old really quick in terms of the purpose it was bought for, and then it gets relegated to a drawer, box or closet space and forgotten about until the next time we are cleaning.

In some cases, some really financially-aggressive folks look for ways to monetize the old equipment. There are e-waste services that will buy the old equipment to resell it in other markets elsewhere around the world. However, what you find is that these services are very picky, and the equipment they want tends to be only the premium brands and models. So, 9 out of 10 devices don't get bought. On the other hand, some folks just decide to donate the device to charity and automatically get a market value for it on their taxes as a deduction. Even with a 50% value cut of only the resale market value, it's still usually more money than one gets reselling the device.

Overall, however, most devices just don't get liquidated at all. They just sit and, ultimately, become what we term as "e-waste." 2019 estimates put the amount of e-waste produced at more than 50 million metric tons, at least globally. That's a pretty big educated guess, but it's fairly valid when you think about every three years the most popular mobile device alone gets changed for a better one. Phone companies even offer massive discounts (on contract of course) to swap out old phones. That then produces a wave of old phones being chucked, stuffed, sold or otherwise disposed of in the same cycle.

Alternatively, creative folks look for ways to make their old devices last longer:

  • Computers and laptops are probably the easiest to recycle. First, they can be used for passive work, especially if that work can generate income. Just hook the device to the Internet, install the appropriate software, and let the device rip 24/7 until it burns out. The most viable approach, of course, is crypto mining, even with low value alt-coins. Folding at Home, which supported medical research as well, is one popular option. I talk about it in detail in my earlier Folding article.
  • Phones obviously are used for their mobile platform access to lots of apps, but they are still good for basic phone communications long after the software side of the phone isn't working anymore. Having an extra working phone can be handy, particularly if traveling and you don't want your primary phone stolen or worse, scanned by foreign governments through their cellular network. Consider an old phone your personal burner phone in that regard. Alternatively, you can use some old phones as cold crypto wallets. Keep your crypto safe and re-use a device you already know well.
  • Some mobile devices make easy toys for little kids. They can pretend they are using their own cell phone or computer. Kids have amazing imaginations and it gives them a sense of acting like adults with play. Of course, you do need to watch out for hazardous parts, so at least remove the battery and make sure the device can't be easily pulled apart after giving it a good scrub with household cleaners.
  • Remember, even if your mobile device is garbage with a network, it still works extremely well as a compact camera. People don't appreciate the technology and capability of mobile device cameras these days. The are as good or even better than actual SLR cameras. So, having a spare available just for using as a travel camera is great way to keep your expensive image-tool at home when traveling or going places you're not sure are safe taking photos in. Many journalists have realized this idea is a great way to use old phones to still do their job for story-supporting images and not worry if the phone gets seized by police. Old phones also do very well for monitoring cameras in rooms. With a bit of configuration, your old phone can work well as a monitor, home camera when you're away or studio tool for home movies and YouTubing content creation.
  • Got old headphones? How about those wired Apple headphones? Well, guess what? They got popular again. Wired headphones for laptops and phones is popular again, especially the ones with the standard needle plug versus the lightening USB plug. I have about 3 of them, 1 with a microphone and 2 for listening only and all Apple. They were being sold on eBay two years ago for only $5 a piece. Now, they've shot up. Maybe you can dig yours out of a draw and sell them for real money. Just make sure to clean them first. No one wants your old ear wax, ewwwww.
  • Learn electronics by playing with your old gadgets and devices. Old equipment makes for a great lesson platform to practice what you can learn online about device electronics, especially if they are already broken or not working anymore. This way, you don't need to spend money on test equipment, and you can learn practical skills for repair people will pay you to do for them on their devices. It's a bit of a win-win. Start with iFixit as a tutorial or training guide. That site gives you access to some 90,000 guides on device repair that are also step-by-step.

Whatever you do, just remember that your electronic gadget is not at the end of its life just because it's no longer popular or working for its original purpose. There are still ways to make it last longer. And that keeps it out of the landfill as well as the chemicals in the parts from ending up poisoning land or water. Find how to be a bit more creative, and you'll also realize its kind of fun to find a way for something old to work again.

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A professional freelance writer for the last 20 years and a budding photographer by hobby.

The Intersect of Crypto Musings & Consumer Impacts
The Intersect of Crypto Musings & Consumer Impacts

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