Ask LH: How Can I Recycle My Old Technology?

Ask LH: How Can I Recycle My Old Technology?

Dear Lifehacker, After reading your article titled What happened when I truly disconnected” I have felt inspired to de-technologise myself. At home I have six laptops and tablets, all in working order despite 12+ years of wear ‘n’ tear. I want to get this number down to one.

I’ve sold two, but the rest will probably end up going to recycling. Problem is that where I live, my options are the local tip (which does no IT recycling at all) or to pay $45 each to have them collected from home by a “professional recycling firm”. Do you have any suggestions? I am keen to make sure they go to good use or are adequately recycled! Thanks for your help, Disconnecting

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Dear Disconnecting,

$45 per laptop is pretty excessive — it would cost less money to drive to another council area and recycle them yourself. That said, you should be able to claim any expenses you incur at tax time. (Some e-waste removal services will even provide you with a green certificate for this very purpose.)

Another option is to contact the laptops’ manufacturers, most of whom have their own dedicated green programs in Australia. Toshiba, for example, allows customers to drop off old equipment in designated recycling bins, free of charge. It will also pick up your equipment from your house for $13 per item (plus a $10 courier fee). Pay a visit to the Australian website of each vendor and see if they provide a similar service.

Alternatively, you could try turning your unwanted laptops and tablets into cash. Retailers and hardware manufactures regularly hold cashback promotions for old technology. Last month, Harvey Norman was offering $300 off its Intel Core i7 ultrabook range when you traded in a used laptop up to five years old.

If you’re not interested in buying a new laptop, you could also give one of the various tech-for-cash websites a try. Examples include Boomerang Buyback, Cash-a-Phone (which also buys laptops) and Notebooks Galore. Naturally, you could also try flogging them on eBay. Whichever option you go for, make sure that any sensitive information has been thoroughly wiped from the hard drives first!

If readers have any alternative websites or services they’d like to flag, let Disconnecting know in the comments section below.


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  • The tablets must be worth something.. even if just donated to a school.. surely they’re not 12 years old… unless they’re Palm Pilots or something..

  • or to pay $45 each to have them collected from home by a “professional recycling firm”

    Damn. No wonder so many people don’t bother recycling with fees like that. It seems outrageously high.

  • Donating to schools or services that support people with a disability is a great way to pass on your ‘outdated’ technology. In NSW TAD repurpose older technolog. Its likely there are similar programs or organisations in other states.

  • Hmm… I was hoping that the article would be a bit broader given the headline. As such it’s mainly about laptops… my workplace has a metric buttload of old tech including old computers, networking equipment and various electronics devices sitting gathering dust that could feasibly recycled (and probably worth a significant amount in scrap and/or vintage use).

  • Give it away on Freecycle ( You’ll be amazed what is useful to other people. Of course, make sure any personal or sensitive info is wiped first.

  • First up thanks Chris for the article. I literally just got off the phone to my local council to confirm if a TV/Monitor amnesty was still in place for drop off (it was, yay me!). Also never knew about the green certificate for tax, very handy.

    Community groups like mens sheds or other council community/volunteer organisations will be happy to take these things off your hands mostly even free of charge. Often they’ll use your old tech to run self help general IT classes.
    But $45ea is a bit steep. Even my council isn’t that bad (usually $10 for a TV/Monitor drop off, but take PC’s for free).

  • There are various “Computerbank” initiatives around Australia that will take old IT equipment and repurpose it with open source software and training for disadvantaged people. They also can recycle broken equipment for a fee, but obviously prefer working equipment.
    I have donated a lot of equipment to Computerbank Victoria – especially things that are working but not worth the hassle ebaying.
    A quick google shows there are other Computerbank associations such as one in Queensland.

  • One caveat: keep one, fairly recent, backup portable device. If you have to be without your main phone or laptop for any length of time, having its predecessor to use can save a lot of hassle.
    You might need to update some of the software and such, but it’s probably mostly the same as your current workhorse and you can be on the road with something usable pretty quickly.

  • Probably worth including a link about ensuring you don’t leave personal information for identity thieves on any device that you drop off anywhere.

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