Dear Vanessa,

I'm frustrated and drowning in the clutter of outdated and unused electronics including but not limited to printers, laptops, PCs, monitors, microwaves and kettles ... how and where do we dispose of this in a responsible way?

Thank you, Leon Stoltz

Hi Leon,

I love that you list laptops and kettles. Electronics contain valuable materials that enables them to be reused or recycled profitably, but they also contain a lot of toxic elements — including lead, brominated fire retardants, cadmium, plastics, mercury and arsenic — that contaminate land and groundwater when dumped. Televisions and monitors with cathode ray tubes (CRT) contain as much as eight pounds of lead! And yet, only 20 percent of electronics are recycled in the U.S.

So how do you dispose of electronics in a responsible way?

Don’t. Do what you can to update, upgrade, refurbish or fix any electronics — and also rethink your needs. Reduce the clutter in the first place; don’t buy what you don’t really need.

Next best option is to reuse them. You may consider your gadgets outdated, or maybe you simply don’t need them anymore, but it is likely that someone would find them useful. Sell them online, through local listings or have a yard sale. Better yet, give it away: list your stuff on Freecycle or in local bulletins. You may find an artist or hobbyist who would be glad to rid you of your clutter. Donate your electronics to a school, nonprofit organization or thrift store and you will usually be eligible for a tax write-off.

If those options don’t work for you, recycle. The microwave and kettle won’t be recycled with your monitors, and of course, municipalities have different recycling processes and regulations, so I’ve included links to organizations that can answer specific questions. Enter your ZIP code and item that you want to recycle, and the sites will point you to where you can go to recycle your various ... things.

Keep in mind, too, that many of the major electronics companies now have recycling programs. Contact the manufacturers to find out what they will take back. To find local recycling information visit E-cycling Central and Earth911.

How can I recycle my electronics?
Green considerations for the responsible homeowner and gadget-lover.