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What to Do With Your Old, Unwanted Tech After Christmas

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Canadians love technology. This Christmas there will be myriad tech gadgets under trees across the country: smartphones, tablets, laptops, smartwatches, and more.

We will love our new things. And we will use them every day. But what will happen to the old, unwanted tech that these new gifts replace?

The product cycle of technology items is often short, and many of us like to upgrade often, even when it's not necessary. This leaves a lot of old technology out there. And some of it gets thrown out, which is bad for us all: electronic waste is the fastest-growing segment in an already unsustainable waste stream, contributing 70% of overall toxic waste in landfills. Don't throw out your old tech.

You do have options. You could take your old stuff to a recycling depot, but while this choice ensures it won’t end up in a landfill, there are better options. Recyclers don’t look for reuse potential, everything that winds up on their premises is destroyed, regardless of whether or not it still works. They’re helping out the environment, sure, but how many operating items are ruined every day that could offer real value to somebody else? When the lease on your car is up and you trade it in for the new model, the dealership doesn’t take it apart and melt down all the pieces just to turn around and make brand new car, that would be costly, inefficient and totally unnecessary. The dealership re-leases or sells that car, it’s only a few years old after all. A notable portion of the population will never even own a new car, second hand options are way more affordable and can have a pretty long life span if properly maintained. Electronics are the same way, just on a smaller scale.

You may want the latest iPhone, maybe you’ll even see it under your Christmas tree, but chances are somebody who can’t afford a phone at all would be thrilled to have last year’s model. Show your old tech some love and open up the potential for a new adoptive home. The Electronics Recycling Association acts like their recycling counterparts in that they have depots across the country and accept pretty much anything you can plug in (with the exception of maybe kitchen appliances). That’s where the similarities end. The ERA examines every item that comes through the door for reuse potential, their mandate is to reuse everything they can: old desktop and laptop computers, monitors and TVs, servers, cell phones, smart phones, printers and toner cartridges, cables and accessories, stereo equipment, mp3 and other handheld music devices. They even have top of the line data erasure products. In the event your old tech really has reached end-of-life, ERA will pass it along to a recycler for responsible final processing.

The best part about the reuse option is that the ERA donates literally tons of tech gear every year to deserving local charities, so your old stuff could make someone less fortunate very grateful, and that's definitely worth something.

So unwrap your new tech. Love it, and love the people who gave it to you. Just don't throw away your old stuff. Our planet deserves better.

Got a laptop, tablet or cellphone you no longer want? Donate it to the ERA, they’ll pay for postage if you mail it in or send a truck to your location to pick up larger quantities. Simply call or email to obtain your postage coupon. (1.877.9.EWASTE, kristi@era.ca)

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