Activities For The Civic Geek: Electronic Recycling

Most geeks love their electronics.  Electronic waste and disposal presents quite an environmental problem – and ignores how other people can use technology others casually throw away.  Getting into electronic recycling as a civic geek gives you many ways to help out.

If you’re reading this, I’m guessing you’re probably awash in technology.  You either have a lot of it, use a lot of it, or both.

The problem is a lot of this technology is pretty hard to dispose of – and is useful when reused.  Deadly chemicals have to be handled in recycling, valuable metals have to be reclaimed.  At the same time there are people that can reuse technology that you might throw away.  For technical geeks, this is a chance to do some good by getting involved in electronics recycling.

Here’s a few ideas:

  • You can get involved in collecting and donating old cell phones or computers.  There’s many places that gladly take old technology.
  • You could get your geeky friends, club, or whatever to refurb old computers before donating them.
  • There are groups that do refurb of technology you could join.
  • Run a drive at a con or club event to collect old technology
  • If you’re a science-heavy geek, you can arrange viewings on films on recycling or speakers at your events.  Just the dangers and methods of recycling electronics alone is fascinating (and a bit scary).

The benefits of this are threefold: you make recycling easier, many electronic recycling efforts help people out, and you become aware of the impact of electronics on the environment and more.  It’s not just helpful – it’s broadening.

A few groups to look into:


  • Close The Gap – Takes computer donations from european countries and refurbishes them for emerging nations. Also works to recycle unusable equipment safely.
  • Computers With Causes – Takes donated computers and either gets them to charitable programs, or sells them for funds used to go to programs
  • PCS For Schools – Refurbishes and upgrades donated computer equipment and uses it to bridge the technology gap in schools
  • World Computer Exchange – A US and Canadian non-profit that reduces the digital divide with education, donated computers, and more.


  • AZ StRUT – Arizona chapter of Students Recycling Used Technology, an organization that supports learning, refurbishing and donation of electronics, and proper recycling of electronics.
  • Cell Phone Bank – Takes donations of cell phones and recycles them for use as emergency phones.
  • Cell phones For Soldiers – Provides refurbed cell phones and more to soldiers so they can keep in touch.
  • Green Electronics Council – A nonprofit focused on environmental leadership in electronics
  • Hope Phones – Outfits global health care workers (part of Medic Mobile) with donated cell phones
  • Komputers4rkids – Focused on Southern California, the goal of Komputers4rkids is to bridge the digital gap in technology, and they accept electronic donations to help do it.
  • National Center For Electronics Recycling – A nonprofit that works to build and coordinate initiatives to improve electronic recycling.
  • Silicon Valley StRUT – California/Silicon Valley chapter of Students Recycling Used Technology, an organization that supports learning, refurbishing and donation of electronics, and proper recycling of electronics.
  • Step Initiative – The Step Initiative takes a long-term view of understanding, planning for, recycling, and avoiding e-waste.
  • The Christina Foundation – Promotes technology reuse and helps connect people with local organizations and individuals that need their donations.
  • Wireless Foundation – Recycles used cell phones and focuses on stopping family violence