A friend of ours is a huge fan of Apple products. He has a giant iMac in his office and a MacBook Air for travel. He wears an iWatch while he browses on his iPad while listening to iTunes on his iPhone. He faithfully watches the annual announcement from Apple, where Tim Cook or somebody important at the company introduces the public to the latest software updates for their treasured devices and unveils the newest gadgets.

Our friend then rushes out and buys all the new toys.

What does he do with the old ones? Like any responsible person, he recycles them…

But not with us.

We’re often asked whether we’ll take old computers, televisions, and the like. We don’t. Most of those are filled with glass and plastic, and housed in a plastic frame. This pollutes our recycling stream and cannot be mixed with valuable metals.

We will, however, take many of the components used to make your nifty device. Your old computer tower, for example, houses a series of “motherboards” that are loaded with snippets of nickel, tantalum, cobalt, and aluminum. The tower itself is likely made of valuable aluminum. Television, computer, and ethernet cables hide an abundance of copper, which is worth a pretty penny.

The machines themselves, and especially old phones, contain cerium, gallium, manganese, and more. While these may be valuable, the cost to extract them is heavy.

So, what to do with those old gizmos?

There are many organizations that will re-purpose them. There are some who will refurbish your old phone and donate it to a shelter for victims of domestic violence. Some will rebuild your old computer and donate it to an educational charity or other nonprofit.

The City of Richmond and its surrounding counties hold regular e-cycling events that will ensure that your device ends up somewhere besides a landfill. Most advertise the events on either their website or social media channels.

When you toss an old phone into the garbage, it will end up in a landfill. Over time, materials such as mercury, lead, and arsenic will leach out and end up in the surrounding soil and water table. A 2019 study showed that less that a quarter of all of our dead and obsolete gadgets were recycled. Much of it was sent overseas, where folks in poorer countries tried to salvage what they could, and burned the rest. Another study found that many of those trying to salvage e-waste were children, and they suffered from the exposure to these rare and poisonous elements.

Most of us would be lost without our devices. Truth be told, they’ve been a boon to our connection to the world. Many of you are probably reading this on some sort of phone or gadget.

We’ll give you our best price on the items that we can responsibly recycle. Do your best to responsibly dispose of the rest.