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How to Recycle Personal Electronic Accessories

written by: Lindsay Evans•edited by: Niki Fears•updated: 11/12/2009

Personal electronics may be essential, but they - and their slew of accessories - are a growing percentage of landfill waste. You may know how to recycle your cell phone, but what about it's chargers, headset, and battery? Learn how to properly recycle your electronic accessories here.

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    The Growing Problem of E-Waste

    Electronic waste in the US (including devices such as TVs and computers) totaled 2.5 million tons in 2007 alone, according to the EPA's eCycling website. Much of this waste could have been kept out of landfills and re-used or recycled. In fact, only 18 percent of used TV and computer products and only 10 percent of discarded cell phones were collected for recycling that same year.

    Electronics contain harmful substances, such as mercury, cadmium, and lead, that can leach from landfills and contaminate ground water. Proper recycling keeps these toxins out of the water system where they can harm wildlife and people.

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    Accessible Accessory Recycling

    Most companies who sell personal electronics now have easily accessible recycling programs that readily accept their products along with it's accessories. In most cases, your phone's charger, extra battery, headset, earpiece or other accessories can be turned in for recycling when you are ready to upgrade to a newer phone.

    Retail stores for most cell phones, such as Sprint, T-Mobile, and AT&T Wireless stores, accept old phones and accessories for recycling. If the store does not have a recycling drop-off program, ask for a mailing address where your old electronic device and it's accessories can be sent for recycling. Large electronic stores, such as Best Buy, often have recycling programs for your old electronic devices and accessories .

    You can also look at your phone's manufacturer's website for information on where to send in your phone's accessories for recycling.

    The non-profit Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corporation partners with local businesses and recycling centers to collect rechargeable batteries and cell phones for recycling. RBRC drop-off sites accept batteries from products such as cell phones, cordless tools, digital cameras, laptops, and more. Their website lists the recycling drop-off locations in your area that partner with the RBRC.

    Additional resources to find a location near you that accepts electronic accessories for recycling include the Telecommunications Industry Association's E-Cycling website, Earth 911, and My Green Electronics.

    Most organizations that recycle electronics for charity will not accept accessories, just items such as cell phones and digital cameras. Usually, the items are not directly given to the needy. Instead, the money raised from recycling the items is used to support the charity.

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    Should You Recycle it - Yet?

    If your electronic accessories are still in good working condition, why not give them away or sell them to another person who can use them? Re-using items makes the least impact by saving the energy associated with transporting and recycling, and saving the manufacture of a new item.

    Ebay's Rethink Initiative makes it easy for buyers and sellers of used electronic equipment to connect and keep products out of the landfill. When selling your used item on eBay, don't forget to include all the essential accessories!

    It might be fun to bring a smile to someone's day by offering up your old digital camera or cell phone (along with it's accessories) to someone in need. Call a local thrift shop to see if they accept donations of working electronics or know of someone who would appreciate your item.