It all starts with stuffing your desk, or in some cases kitchen drawers with old, long forgotten, once favourite tech gadgets. When all your drawers get stuffed, you start storing old mobiles, digital cameras, e-readers, players, and other gadgets in garages or attics. Once this no longer works, it ends up with a question: what should I do?

Recycling technology wasn’t a major issue a few years ago when we weren’t consuming that much technology. But things have changed radically. As our phones, gadgets and other electronics get replaced by newer, better, and more powerful versions, technology is becoming a growing part of the problem as only about 10 percent of used mobile devices were recycled last year.

In 2011, 41.5 million tons of electronic waste was generated, expecting to reach 93.5 million by 2016. Today, 70 to 80 percent of all that electronics end on landfills.

Apart from plastics, one of the major environmental threats nowadays, other substances pose a risk to both the environment and human health (selenium in circuit boards, cadmium in semiconductors, lead in cathode-ray tube screens). Electronic waste isn’t going to go anywhere unless we make an effort to dispose it in an efficient and responsible manner, and this brings us back to the question: what can we do?

Before you do anyting you should bear in mind that not every option, especially if you decide to sell your gadgets, has environmental protection in mind, but rather the profit, thus you need to know your options and take many things into consideration.

Should you sell or donate your smartphone and gadgets?

Depending on the age of your gadget and other electronics, you can either sell or donate. If your gadgets (mobiles, smartphones, digital cameras, mp3 players, tablets, e-book readers, etc.) are newer and you prefer some cash, you can always sell them on Amazon, Ebay or O2’s recycling service. You will receive some money for your gadgets, then they will be resold and donated to O2’s Think Big charity, which is a win-win situation for you.

If you want to donate, especially if you have monitors and desktop PCs that are still usable, you can start locally. Freecycle is a non-profit movement with more than 8 million members around the world, with local groups of volunteers who you can contact and get all the details about the nearest recycling centre, or organization.

Many charities have good recycling programs. You can arrange a donation with a charity such as British Heart Foundation, Computer Aid, Digital Links and Computers for Charities.  This is the best option for you to know that your old laptop will be of any use, not sold and thrown on landfill.

Should you give it back to manufacturer?

Most of the largest manufacturers have recycling programs, for instance Apple will take back old products, and in some situations you can get credit for the gadgets that still work.

HP has recycling programs in 73 countries, Samsung has a mobile take-back program that offers a printable return label, and similar programs for their other products, and LG offers free packaging recycling. Canon, Sony, and Dell also offer similar programs. So in some situations you will get a credit but most importantly you will know that your gadgets won’t have any harmful effects on the environment (and will be usually refurbished).

What we usually forget is that batteries are very valuable, yet highly destructive, but a priority for recycling. Empty your old remotes and power tools and visit European Recycling Platform which offers a list of recycling locations filtered by postcode.

Finally, With Valentine’s day around the corner, the gift giving season is about to end, and if you are on a tight budget, you can be very creative with e-waste, and along the way do your own recycling while making something interesting.

Some gadgets are too old to be of any use, you can’t sell them or donate, but you can still use them to create useful household objects or to give them a new purpose; hard drives and circuits boards can be quite an amazing ornaments, keyboards can be used to make beautiful jewellery, or, you can try creating something like this:

recycled keyboard

E-waste is a major contemporary problem, the right time to recycle your gadgets is now.

For more  recycling programs run by either non-profits or companies, you can visit greengadgets.