Technology is fantastic, making it easier for us to stay connected, share information with one another, and even shop remotely from the comfort of our own home. What isn’t fantastic is when technology fails on us. Whether a device is damaged, wears out after years of use, or simply becomes too outdated to keep up with the ever-evolving system requirements of a program or application- every device has an expiration date. The more sophisticated computers, tablets, and smartphones become, the more they rely on rare minerals and sometimes even toxic chemicals to operate. The days of simply dumping your old phone in the trash are over. As consumers, it’s up to us to responsibly dispose of our old electronics before we move on to the next greatest device- whether it’s a phone, a computer, a video game console, or even an old CD player.

The first step when getting rid of an old device is to secure your own personal data. If you’re getting rid of your old device simply to replace it with the newest model, your device’s hard drive will still be intact which is where all data is stored. For phones, begin by restoring the phone to factory settings- this will remove all of your information from the device. This process can be completed on Windows, Android, and Apple devices easily. Almost all electronic devices produced today will have a factory reset option- if you can’t find it, consult with Google and it shouldn’t take you long to find directions! Alternatively, you could remove the hard drive itself- especially helpful for laptop and desktop computers. If you lack the know-how, take your device to a computer shop and they can do the work for you. Once you have the hard drive, you can keep it and store it to prevent your information from falling into unwanted hands, or you could convert the hard drive into an external storage device you can use with your new computer. This is a great way to keep your old photos or videos easily available, even when moving between two computers.

While you’re at it, make sure to remove any other data-centric components, such as a SIM card. If your electronic device has a disc drive for CDs, DVDs, and Blu-Rays, make sure the drive is empty.

The next big step in disposing of an electronic device is to determine if it has a life still in it. Just because a device no longer meets your needs, doesn’t mean someone else can’t use it. Oftentimes, it’s easier to hand down a used device to friends or family than it is to trash it- especially if you’re only getting rid of it because you got the new Play Station for Christmas! Your old model could still give someone else years of enjoyment, so pass it along to a new owner. If you have the available time, you can list electronics for sale on your local marketplace sites and attempt to recoup some of your costs. If you want to avoid the potential hassle, donate the device to a Thrift Store which supports a charity you like. Be sure to also check your local schools and community centers and organizations for any programs which may help connect under-privileged users with second-hand devices. Sometimes the best way to dispose of something isn’t to get rid of it, but rather to just pass it on to a new user entirely! When you’re purchasing your new device, some retailers may offer a trade in credit for your old device, too.

If your device suffered a major malfunction and is now dead, that means it’s time to consider permanent disposal. The first step in these circumstances is to make sure that your data is secured. While a phone or computer’s motherboard may have suffered a fault, there’s a possibility that the hard drive will have survived, so make sure it’s removed and dealt with separately before you allow the item to leave your possession. In some instances, your device may still be salvageable- so look for electronics repair shops in your area. Even if you’re done with the device, the repair shop can still salvage it for parts that may help others.

Devices that have reached the end of their lifespan are known as E-Waste, and depending on the jurisdiction you reside in, there may be specific guidelines on how you should dispose of them. The key here is recycling, which involves separating the various components within your device so they can be sent to the correct facilities. Batteries, for example, should be removed before attempting to recycle any device, as the materials used in their construction can be volatile and need to be separate from other componentry. Some electronics stores will have drop off points for E-waste, along with some local and county organizations as well. It’s up to you to do the research and determine the best location to drop off your E-Waste for responsible recycling.

Being responsible and disposing of your E-Waste properly doesn’t have to be difficult or complicated, but it does require you take a few steps to protect both your personal information but also the environment as a whole.