Gadget census

Where does your obsolete or broken tech stuff go when you’re done with it? Probably into a closet (because you don’t know what to do with it) or maybe even the trash (gasp) because you just don’t care. Only 39 percent of 7,500 folks polled last year said they recycle all their old electronic gadgets (and I’ll bet that percentage is inflated because people want to look good).

gadget report

At least California leads the nation in something besides taxes!


Another 17 percent said they didn’t know how to recycle their old cell phones, computers, monitors and tape recorders, and 7 percent didn’t care (thanks for trashing our land and water supply, you guys). A full 26 percent admitted they “didn’t get around to it.”

Those statistics come from the crew at Retrevo, a consumer review and shopping site based in here in Silicon Valley. The site’s poll about recycling obsolete or unwanted gadgets garnered 7,500 respondents, and their responses were weighted across demographics (my journalist self feels the need to say that).

Especially interesting from my organizing perspective is that 26 percent–one out of four–respondents were caught in limbo: They no longer needed an old item, but they didn’t get rid of it either.

Honestly, I’m surprised that number isn’t larger. I see that indecisiveness all the time at clients’ homes. When they buy  a new coffeemaker or toaster, cell phone or printer, they often put the old one into the box of the new one and store it in the garage or office. They think they might need it again, but very, very few ever do, and it takes up valuable space and contributes to clutter.

Fortunately, it’s becoming easier than ever to find recyclers who will take unwanted, broken or obsolete e-waste. Goodwill accepts all gadgets, working or not, and sites like PaceButler will send you a postage-paid envelope for cell phones on its “wanted” list. Some office supply stores will accept old items or direct you to a site that takes them. Send me a note if you’d like a list of donation sites in the Bay Area.

Among the good news from this survey: If you’re an obsolete gadget, your best chance at reincarnation is in California, Minnesota, Maryland, and Oregon. The San Francisco Bay Area, Washington, D.C.’s metro area, Phoenix and Los Angeles all scored high as hotbeds of greenness.

Bottom line: Don’t let today’s unneeded gadgets become tomorrow’s clutter. When something new comes in, something old needs to exit. And it shouldn’t travel out your door via the trash can.


About organizesf

Professional organizer June Bell ( combats clutter and chaos with sage advice, tested techniques and good humor.
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2 Responses to Gadget census

  1. And you can donate your old computers to Computers for Everyone here in the Bay Area. More info here: If you’re aware, you’ll also see drop-boxes for cell phones, where you can donate them for use by battered women, soldiers (, or other specialty populations. We save our ewaste (the broken stuff) so we can get rid of it properly during city ewaste collections like the one you mentioned a few months back:

  2. I feel guilty about this: when we moved from England to the US (different electrical system), I “gave” my Mom all kinds of electrical gadgets. I’m pretty sure they’re still cluttering up her home.
    Happily, it is getting easier to recycle gadgets – from time to time, we even have a neighborhood pick up service offered. Community groups, churches and libraries quite often seem to do fund-raisers too, so keeping your eyes open can pay off.

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