IC University Blog

Digital Detox: How to Dispose of Your Old Tech

Posted by Julia Curtis on May 9, 2024 3:11:13 PM

Smart devices have seamlessly integrated themselves into nearly every aspect of modern life, revolutionizing how we communicate, work, and interact with the world around us. From smartphones and wearable fitness trackers to appliances and smart speakers, these devices offer convenience, connectivity, and functionality like never before. However, their rapid evolution and constant innovation have shortened replacement cycles or created new ones as consumers eagerly upgrade to the latest devices with promises of enhanced performance and new functionalities. The integration of these smart devices, or Internet of Things, is expected to grow from 15.1 billion in 2020 to more than 29 billion devices in 2030. This leaves a lot of devices that are no longer wanted and in need of disposal.

What is e-waste?

E-waste or electronic waste describes all types of electronic equipment that is end-of life or unwanted and then discarded, donated, or recycled. Examples include: appliances, cell phones, computers, entertainment systems, printers, lamps, medical equipment, remotes, cords, cables, and dongles.

In 2019 about 6.9 million metric tons of e-waste was produced in the US alone, according to Global E-Waste Monitor, a research group that tracks electronic waste. That’s about the same weight as 19 Empire State Buildings. Most of this e-waste is disposed of improperly with only about 15% being collected for recycling in 2019. Globally, improper disposal of e-waste was estimated to release 98 million metric tons of CO2 equivalents into the atmosphere in 2019 alone.

Improper disposal includes:

  • Scavenging
  • Dumping in land or bodies of water
  • Dumping in landfills along with other waste
  • Open burning or heating
    • Especially hazardous due to toxic fumes
  • Acid baths/ acid leaching
  • Striping and shredding plastic coatings
  • Manual disassembly

Disposal impacts:

Toxic Waste:

Of the total toxic waste produced, 70% is due to e-waste. Globally, over 50 million tons of e-waste is generated yearly with many electronic devices utilizing several hazardous materials. Some commonly used chemicals include but are not limited to lead, mercury, and cadmium. The improper disposal of e-waste can lead to these toxic substances leaching into the air, soil, and water, contaminating ecosystems, and posing risk to both human and animal health.

Resource Conservation:

Electronics are made with precious materials such as gold, silver, and copper. By recycling electronics, these rare earth metals can be recovered without additional mining operations. For every million cell phones recycled 35 thousand pounds of copper, 772 pounds of silver, 75 pounds of gold, and 33 pounds of palladium can be recovered. Additionally, recycling can save energy. Recycling 1 million laptops saves the energy equivalent of 3,667 homes for an entire year.


Currently, 25 states and the District of Columbia have enacted electronics recycling legislation. Many of these states’ laws include recycling programs that are made available to consumers and describe how recycling electronics can be done for free or at a discount.

Years E-Waste Laws Were Passed:

2003: California
2004: Maine
2005: Maryland
2006: Washington
2007: Connecticut, Minnesota, Oregon, Texas, North Carolina
2008: New Jersey, Oklahoma, Virginia, West Virginia, Missouri, Hawaii, Rhode Island, Illinois, and Michigan
2009: Indiana, Wisconsin
2010: Vermont, South Carolina, New York, Pennsylvania
2011: Utah
2014: District of Columbia

For more information about your state’s regulations visit https://thinkdynamic.com/legislation/ or https://www.ecycleclearinghouse.org/contentpage.aspx?pageid=10.

Please note: some industries may require proper disposal of devices with sensitive data. To properly satisfy all disposal requirements, please review the regulations associated with sensitive data in your industry.

How to recycle:

The replacement cycle for technology can be quick. On average, smart phones are replaced every 2.5-3 years and PCs are replaced every 5-6 years for consumers and every 3-5 years for corporations. To extend the life of your electronics consider upgrading the hardware or software. If your old devices are in good condition but are still being replaced, consider donating them to a local school, nonprofit, or organization. Alternatively, your device may qualify for a trade-in program that offers money for either working or non-working devices.

Before Donating or Recycling:

It is important when donating or recycling your old technology to remove all sensitive data from the device. Here are some tips and considerations:

  • Check with device manufacturers, operating system providers, and electronics retailers for specific instructions or software to wipe a device. For example, IOS, Android, and Windows operating systems for mobile devices may have features like factory resets built in that can help with data wiping and protection.
  • Remember to back up any files you want to keep before beginning to wipe data.
  • Disconnect from web- or “cloud”-based services, websites, etc., especially those tied to a credit card or bank account, or that automatically sync or upload files.
  • For some types of data storage, physical destruction (e.g., driving a nail through a hard drive) may work, but be aware that this may not work for newer data storage (e.g., “solid state” hard drives), because data can be recovered even from very small pieces of the storage device.
  • If you are unable to remove data from the device yourself, some electronic repair shops offer data backup and wiping services. It is important to ask about the process to learn more about the security of your data.
  • If you are utilizing a recycling or collection site, ask how they will keep your data containing devices secure and what, if anything, they do to erase or wipe personal data.

Special considerations for businesses, schools, and institutions:

  • Be aware of any federal or state data security laws (e.g., for healthcare, financial, or educational records).
  • Make sure you have a clear chain of custody and secure storage for data-containing devices that are waiting to be recycled or refurbished.
  • Look for recyclers with National Association for Information Destruction (NAID) certification or other complete, robust procedures for protecting and erasing data.
  • Make sure contracts with recyclers clearly spell out how data will be handled (e.g., hard drives must be shredded, hard drive wiping and refurbishing is acceptable). Many companies offer on-site data wiping or destruction.

Where to Donate or Recycle:

Manufacturers and retailers offer several options to donate or recycle electronics. Here are some resources for searching e-recycling options: 

For those close to the La Crosse, Wisconsin area, Ironcore will be hosting a Technology Recycling event on Friday, May 17th, 2024, at our office. We welcome you to recycle your old technology for free!

Date: May 17, 2024
Time: 1PM - 5PM
Place: Ironcore, Inc.
548 Lester Ave. Onalaska, WI

Recycling your old tech is free with the exception of:

Monitors: $5
TVs: $20

Please, no light bulbs, batteries, or appliances. These items will not be accepted.

For event reminders or more information regarding the event, please visit https://www.ironcore-inc.com/recycling-2024.








Topics: Internet of Things (IoT), Security, Regulatory Compliance, Data