Disposing of Electronics, Other Common Items

Amanda Bell
Written by Amanda Bell
Updated December 10, 2015
cell phones being thrown in the garbage
Don't throw those old electronics in the trash! There are more eco-friendly options to disposing of items around the house. (Photo © Thinkstock)

Ready to get rid of your old electronics, light bulbs or prescription medicine? This is how to toss it.

Old CDs, cords, prescription medicine — some of these items probably clutter your home because you have no idea how to dispose of them properly. The new year makes a great time to purge your living space of these oddball objects. Use this guide to learn how to get rid of them and get your home back in order for the new year.

Many communities have drop-off electronics recycling centers, while several online services, including greendisk.com, dispose of old cords, mice, cell phones, printer cartridges, computer components, laptops and more for a small fee. Many services send you a box for you to mail back to them, then they’ll destroy physical materials for you.

CDs and DVDs

With most music and movies available via streaming services, your DVD copy of “Footloose” likely isn’t in heavy rotation these days, and neither is the CD soundtrack. Unfortunately, the discs can’t go in curbside recycling (they’re considered plastic #7). Donate them to charities or a resale shop instead.

Printed materials

Many community recycling centers accept magazines — just first rip out adhesive strips from paper inserts, which jam recycling centers’ processing machines. Give books a second life by reselling them or giving them to a charitable organization.

Compact fluorescent light bulbs

CFLs contain small amounts of mercury, so keep them out of the curbside trash. Take CFLS to a household hazardous waste facility or find out if your recycling service provider accepts them. Many home improvement stores also have drop-off bins for light bulbs near their entrances.

Small appliances

Most small household appliances are made of about 75 percent steel, according to the Steel Recycling Institute, so recycle those that no longer work. Some communities take them ― if not with curbside collection, then at drop-off locations. Donate anything in working condition to local thrift centers. Bonus: Your donations might qualify you for a tax write-off.

Many junk removal companies also take away other bulky items like large appliances, furniture, televisions. If you have an appliance that still works, ask your service provider about the company’s donation policy.


Flushing pills contaminates water treatment systems so find “take-back” programs offered through your pharmacy or local municipality. If you must use the trash, combine the pills with coffee grounds or used kitty litter and put them in a sealable container before throwing them out. You can recycle several types of plastic pill containers — just remove the labels first.

Sources: American Cleaning Institute, Earth911, EPA, FDA, Steel Recycling Institute