Emptying the Electronics Graveyard

An electronics graveyard. We all have one in our houses. Mine is deep in the bowels of my basement in a backroom closet. You open up the door and out comes cell phones, laptops, a VHS player and dozens of cords and adaptors. I could sell them on eBay, but the process can be a tad time consuming. Salvation Army won't take outdated laptops and you can't just throw them in the trash.

Gazelle.com may be the solution. This two-year-old Web site buys old electronics and sells them to other retailers and wholesalers in return for an Amazon.com gift card, a check or a payment through Paypal. You could also choose to have the money go to charity. The company says they pay users an average of $115. Any device that's deemed to have no value gets recycled by the company, which is about 10 percent of items that get sent in.

So here's how it works: You plug in all the basic information about the device and out spits a price of what the Web site is willing to pay you. You ship it to them with postage and packaging paid by Gazelle and never have to see it again. The company takes great care to wipe out all your personal information from the device before it gets sold to places like eBay and Amazon.com. The company says many cell phones get sold overseas.

Apple products tend to get the most returns and the newer the product, the more you'll get for it, says a company spokeswoman. I recently plugged in the stats on an ancient Toshiba laptop of mine and understandably it was worthless in Gazelle's eyes. I could still send it in so they could recycle it but I would have to pay for the shipping and packaging. They also sent me a list of local places to have it recycled. Then I plugged in info on my five-year-old Dell Inspirion laptop and they offered $81. Not bad for a piece of clutter in my closet.

The company's goal is to get consumers to think of their electronics the same way they think of cars. You trade them in or sell them to other people rather than just leaving them on the side of the road. Yet we stuff closets and drawers with old cell phones and laptops that have been replaced by newer and better ones.

"The way that we own cars is highly efficient versus electronics," says Kristina Kennedy, senior manager of branding and communications for Gazelle. "There's no way to trade in a laptop. We're trying to change that whole consumption cycle of electronics."

So have you ever used Gazelle? What have you been doing with your old electronics?

By Tania Anderson |  March 26, 2009; 12:00 AM ET
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I've heard of Gazelle, but haven't used it yet. I have taken old CPU's to Best Buy, and they will recycle them, no fee. Very easy. Also try www.earth911.com for tons of local resources for recycling. Cell phones can be recycled free at the post office - they have the bags there.

Posted by: mominva1 | March 26, 2009 8:45 AM

Responsibly disposing of ewaste is a pressing issue these days, as evidenced by more and more states adopting legislation that requires mandatory recycling of such items. In Portland we have a community technology center called Free Geek (www.freegeek.org), whose mission is to keep ewaste out of landfills and provide technology to those who can't otherwise afford it. There are also Free Geeks presently in Columbus, Chicago, Minneapolis, and Vancouver, BC. Chances are good you might have something similar in your community. Shoot for supporting a local non profit before a reseller like Gazelle.

Posted by: pitchinfromPDX | March 26, 2009 1:57 PM

There are a lot of these sites there now: Gazelle.com, BuyMyTronics.com and YouRenew.com.

It seems to me that http://www.YouRenew.com is the best place to go. For my blackberry, I get a better offer price and YouRenew.com donates to clean tech and planting trees for every transaction. It definitely seems like it's more committed to being greener.

I'd check them all out before deciding where to sell your electronics.

Posted by: SkiMiller10 | March 26, 2009 4:42 PM

HP recycling will, for $10, send you a free shipping label to send whatever it is to them to recycle. They used to also give your coupons for ink, but the recycling section of their website has become incoherent, and I can't tell if that is still the case.

Posted by: observer42 | March 26, 2009 4:43 PM

We've sold used PDA's to cerecycle.com a couple of times with great results. We got a lot more doing that than selling on Craigslist or ebay.

Cox cable company has frequent recycling days. They take just about anything - old TV's, toasters, etc.

Fairfax County has some monthly recycling program too, but they don't accept all the items Cox does.

Posted by: sarahabc | March 31, 2009 7:19 AM

SkiMiller10 -- Thanks for the tip. http://www.YouRenew.com offered me $68 for an old iBook -- Gazelle offered me $22.

Posted by: caridee1 | April 1, 2009 11:00 AM

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