Do you have a box of old electrical wires and cables lying in a corner of your house? You’re not alone. Around the globe, human beings throw away around 40 million tons of electrical waste per year.
Electrical construction material, including the types of wires and cables used in your home wiring, make up a huge part of the waste we offload on our planet. But it’s important to keep electrical wires and cables out of the trash – they contain a combination of valuable resources that should be recycled, as well as plastic coatings that are harmful to the environment.
The plastic coating on the wires and cables is commonly made of polyethylene or polyvinyl chloride. If dumped in the trash, these plastics won’t just break down harmlessly in the landfill. When exposed to extreme heat and other environmental conditions the plastic coating can release harmful contaminants like lead and dioxins into the environment.
Fortunately, there are many options for old or unused electrical wires and cables that keep them out of the landfills. Here are five ways to extend their usefulness.
You may be able to find buyers for your old electrical wires and cables. There are a large number of technology enthusiasts and inventors who hang on to old gadgets or develop unique new systems for their use. Your old charging cord may be just the type of electrical wire they’re looking for. You could try listing what you have on Craigslist.
Most of the metal recycling centers will accept old wires and cables for the copper inside them. Some might accept only the metal wire, in which case you’d need to remove the plastic covering/insulation first.
You could also sell to electrical liquidators. These are companies that buy old electronic goods to sell to manufacturers or other people who need them. The quantity they accept depends on the company you visit. You cannot go with just one or two cables, but if you have one or more boxes of cables, they might be interested.
One of the best things to do with your old electrical wires and cables is to reuse them with your new gadgets.
A lot of charging cords and cables work with multiple gadgets. This may not be true for Apple products, but for other brands, you can often reuse an old cable or plug with a different electronic device. It is a good idea to keep a backup charging cord for your phone handy. If you don’t need it, ask a family member or friend who may need it. You can also try offering your cables for free on Freecycle so someone else can reuse them.
Electrical wires and cables contain valuable materials such as copper and aluminum, which are highly recyclable.
If you can’t reuse them or find someone else who will use them, take your old wires and cables to the nearest e-waste recycling facility. Many companies that accept electronics for recycling, such as Best Buy, may also accept cables, wires, and cords. It’s always a good idea to call first to confirm what they currently accept.
Universities offering STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) programs may be happy to accept electrical construction materials such as wires and cables for students to use in their laboratories.
Look up STEM programs in your city on the internet to find likely recipients of your donation. This may require a bit of research because not all universities will accept wires and cables. You could also check with local public schools, which may accept computer supplies such as charging cables and connectors for students who need them.
If you have an artistic bent, you might try upcycling your old electrical wires and cables. Check out these creative wire upcycling ideas:
- Jewelry: Brightly colored wires and cables can be used to make pretty necklaces and bracelets. This video shows you how to make a bracelet from electrical wires.
- Wire sculptures & art: For a fun craft, learn how to make a miniature wire tree. Or check out this more advanced project to make an artistic wire sculpture.
- Bowls: Use old electrical wires to make little baskets to hold your odds and ends. See how in this video.
- Wall hangings: Make a striking wall hanging using the wire from an old ethernet cable.
- More ideas: For inspiration, check out these wire upcycling ideas on Pinterest.
About the Author
Jeson Pitt works with the marketing department of D&F Liquidators and regularly writes to share his knowledge while enlightening people about electrical products and solving their electrical dilemmas. Jeson lives in Hayward, California.
This article was originally published on October 15, 2020.