I had Internet connectivity problems on Tuesday. I couldn’t work. I decided to still be productive and purge my office of over two years of build up. In the purge, I gathered about a dozen USB flash drives – most of them containing marketing materials that I’ve picked up at trade shows or media events. These flash drives, also known as thumb drives, are really useful from a business perspective. From an environmental perspective, though, I now I have a pile of little external computer drives that I don’t want to end up in a landfill.

These drives are often reusable. The information on them can be deleted, and new documents and photos can be loaded on to them. My boys have taken several of them to reuse, but I have more than we need.

Here are ideas for reusing USB flash drives after they have been wiped clean of marketing materials.

Ideas for donating USB flash drives

  • Donate them to the computer lab at a school.
  • Donate them to a senior center that has computers for the seniors to use.
  • Donate them to a teacher.
  • Send them to a college student.
  • Donate to RecycleUSB to be turned into portable learning centers for children ages 5-12.
Ideas for reusing USB flash drives
  • Have kids choose photos to put on them and send as gifts to their tech-savvy grandparents.
  • Make the equivalent of a “mixed tape” for someone. Make a playlist and give it as a gift. There’s something special about handing the person the playlist as opposed to just emailing it.
If the USB drive is no longer working, make sure it goes into an e-waste recycling program instead of throwing it the trash. You can use Earth911’s recycling search to find a place near you that will accept them. Search for “computer peripherals – external” near your zip code.

Do you have any other ideas for giving marketing USB flash drives a second life?

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Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.