How to Recycle Small Appliances

Small appliances, like blenders and toasters, are built to last a long time. But eventually, you’re probably going to need to upgrade. Most small appliances are mainly composed of metal, like steel. So, they have useful materials that are pretty easy to recycle — and shouldn’t end up in the landfill.

Small Appliances Recycling Preparation

  1. Unplug your appliance for several days before recycling to let it cool down.
  2. For microwaves or other heavier appliances (for example, breadmakers), tie up the power cord using either a twist tie or the cord itself (or tape it to the unit). The last thing you want is to trip while carrying an item that may weigh 25 to 50 pounds.
  3. If the item is still in working condition, consider donating it to a thrift store. While it’s not required that you clean appliances before donation, it’s certainly appreciated.
  4. If your appliance has removable parts not made of metal (such as the tempered glass or plastic blender jar), there probably isn’t a recycling market for those. You can remove these parts prior to recycling.

Why Recycle Small Appliances

  • About 75 percent of the weight of the average appliance comes from steel (the most recycled material in the U.S.). Home appliances account for 10 percent of steel recycled in the U.S. each year.
  • Microwaves have computer chips in them that contain valuable metals like gold. And the wire in electronics’ power cords is made of coated copper — another valuable material.

Find Recycling Guides for Other Materials

Frequent Small Electronics Recycling Questions

Can I recycle small electronics in my curbside recycling program?

No. Used electronics should only be recycled through a company that specializes in the recycling of electronics. Never place small electronics in the curbside bin. Curbside recycling programs are not equipped to handle small electronics. Electronics placed in your curbside bin will be crushed by the compactor in the truck. Pieces of glass, plastic, and circuit boards from your device will contaminate the other materials in the truck and may render those items un-recyclable.

So, unless your local recycling program specifically says it accepts appliances, do not put them in the bin/cart. However, many communities offer bulky waste collection as a separate service, and appliances of all sizes are often included. Call your local solid waste hauler to verify acceptance and schedule a pick-up.

What types of recyclable material do small electronics contain?

We may not think of small electronics as tiny computers, but they have all the same internal components. Motherboards include valuable metals like copper and gold. If your small electronic device runs on a battery, the battery is made of either lithium or nickel and cadmium.

Can I make money recycling small electronics?

Yes, especially if they are in working condition. Your best bet is to trade in working electronics. Retailers including Best Buy, Staples and Walmart offer buy-back programs in exchange for gift cards. Most scrap metal recyclers will also accept small electronics, but they pay by the pound, and small electronics don’t weigh much.

Should I remove the battery before recycling?

Many devices that contain lithium-ion batteries, such as mobile phones, are not designed to allow the owner to remove the battery. Look for mail-back programs for recycling your small electronics — especially if you want to get paid. However, be aware that there are special shipping requirements for lithium batteries due to the fact that they can burst into flames (most famously noted in the Samsung Galaxy Note recall of 2016).

While not all electronics use lithium-ion batteries, they are common in laptops and cell phones because they are excellent at holding a charge. If you are mailing your electronic device and it’s safe to do so, you may want to remove the battery and recycle it through a Call2Recycle drop-off point instead of shipping it.

Do electronics manufacturers offer recycling?

Yes, and most have created partnerships with retailers to make recycling easier. Panasonic, Sharp and Toshiba joined forces to create MRM Recycling for recycling their products. Dell has partnered with Goodwill for the Dell Reconnect program through participating Goodwill location. Best Buy and Staples will accept any brand of electronics for recycling. You should also check if the manufacturer of your product offers a trade-in program.

What are the electronics recycling certifications I should be asking about?

The two most common electronics recycling certifications for North American recyclers are the Sustainable Electronics Recycling International’s (SERI) R2 Standard and the Basel Action Network’s (BAN) e-Stewards.

R2 (originally R2 Solutions) has been around since 2008, and focuses on certifying the recycling process, data destruction and the tracking of materials throughout the recycling process. BAN has been certifying recyclers since 2009 to ensure that no electronics are exported to non-OECD countries.

There are electronics recyclers that aren’t R2 or e-Stewards certified, but to make sure that you are recycling products responsibly, check the directories for these certified companies: R2 Recyclers and e-Stewards.

How are small electronics recycled?

The first step for an electronics recycler is to test products to see if they can be repaired or refurbished. When they find non-working devices, recyclers will remove the battery and recycle it along with other batteries. The remaining material may be shredded or dismantled manually to harvest parts or components for reuse. When electronics are shredded, plastic, glass and metal are separated and sent to manufacturers for use in new products.

Do any states require small electronics recycling?

As of 2017, 28 U.S. states require recycling of some forms of electronics. Of those, 19 have banned electronics from landfills. The good news is that every time a new law is passed, recycling becomes that much easier for residents in that state.

Additional Reading

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Trying to recycle a blender? Microwave? Coffee Maker? Recycle small appliances in your area using the Earth911 recycling search.