September 19, 2014

How to Donate or Recycle Old Office Equipment

How to Donate or Recycle Old Office EquipmentFrom computers and printers to scanners and copiers, businesses rely on electronics galore these days. But when it’s time to replace all this equipment, it’s not always clear what to do with it.

Throwing away old office electronics hurts the environment, and is banned in many communities. They often contain hazardous materials, such as mercury, lead and arsenic, that can become toxic waste in landfills and leach into the soil. The best solution is giving them away or recycling them. (Make sure the equipment is cleared of sensitive business information before doing anything with it.)

A noble start is seeing if you can donate your old equipment to a nonprofit. Many organizations, including Goodwill Industries, ILoveSchools and the Salvation Army, accept office equipment that they can resell at low prices or give to people in need. It costs you nothing, and you may even qualify for a tax deduction. (It’s a good idea to call ahead: Demand for various types of equipment changes over time, and some nonprofits may not currently take certain types of equipment.)

If you’re unsure of where to give, check out Great Nonprofits. It keeps a list of nonprofits currently in need of various types of office equipment and furniture.

Some Web sites, such as Free Cycle, also can match you up with individuals seeking computers or other equipment. But you won’t qualify for a tax deduction.

If donating or reselling isn’t feasible, recycling old equipment is the next best thing. Recyclers dismantle and harvest old equipment for parts that can be reused or resold. But there’s growing concern about some questionable practices among some electronics recyclers, so do a little research before you select one.

Many electronics manufacturers and dealers, including Apple and Office Depot, offer “mailback” or other such programs that allow businesses to give back used electronics, sometimes free or for a fee of less than $40 per item. You can find lists of electronics recyclers in your area on My Green Electronics and on E-cycling Central.  Local environmental groups may also provide good information on recycling options and practices in your community.

Keep in mind that many environmentally responsible recyclers often charge small per-item fees for their service.

6 Comments ▼

Kelly Spors


Kelly Spors Kelly Spors is a former small-business and entrepreneurship reporter and blogger for The Wall Street Journal who has also written for Yahoo!, Entrepreneur, NFIB's MyBusiness magazine and The New York Times. Kelly is now a freelance editor and writer based in Minneapolis and has previously managed communications for an environmental non-profit that helps businesses find ways to be greener.

6 Reactions

  1. Great Information. There’s no need to ruin the environment as much as it already is, something every corporation should take into consideration.

  2. I’m the early adopter of technology in my family, so I usually “recycle” my electronics by passing them along to family members.

  3. The bit where you say “(Make sure the equipment is cleared of sensitive business information before doing anything with it.)” is actually THE key part. Most people are not qualified to sanitize or clear data from computer or server hard drives and it is invariably left on the device. How about those hard drives in printers and copiers?, or the memory in cell ohones and PDAs, or the network system data on old routers and switches?

    The other issue you do mention is that recyclers who do actually recycle (as opposed to dump in developing countries where the vast majority of US e-waste goes) tend to charge for it – removing mercury bulbs from printer/scanners costs money.

    We use these guys, at least they seem to be aware of the risks – us.simsrecycling.com – they have some great examples of “disasters” where companies have had their “recycled” hard drives re-sold on eBay with all the info still on them – in one case with missile launch codes!

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