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How to get rid of old gadgets – responsibly

This is the season when people get technology gifts, but it’s also the time of year when we get rid of our old gadgets. We might want to get that end-of-the-year tax write off by donating products to a worthy charity, or maybe we just want to clear out our closets to make room for the new stuff.

Whichever the case, you shouldn’t throw your old technology products into the trash. I won’t fill this column up with a long diatribe about electronic waste – suffice it to say that it can be toxic. And if you decide to recycle, make sure you’re dealing with an organization the does so responsibly.

On its Web site, Greencitizen.com says that “80 percent of U.S. electronic waste collected for ‘recycling’ is dumped in Asia and Africa.”

A good recycling company will make sure that the waste is properly processed with safe disposal of all toxic materials. At www.Computertakeback.com is a list of responsible recyclers broken down by state. The Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition, at svtc.etoxics.org, has plenty of additional information on its Web site.

Another option sometimes is to send the tech item back to where it came from. Some companies offer their own recycling program for their equipment. In California, all cell phone companies are required to take back old phones. In some cases, they are given to domestic violence victims  or others for whom your old phone could become a lifeline. If you’re buying a new PC or Mac and want to recycle your old one, check the manufacturer’s Web site to see what they can do to help. Apple will take back iPods at any of its retail stores, and will send you a coupon for free recycling of any brand PC if you buy a new Mac. Dell provides free recycling for any Dell-branded product. The easiest way to find out what your manufacturer offers is to type its name along with “+ recycling” into a search engine.

The end of the year is when a lot of people give old equipment to a non-profit to get a write-off of the fair market value. This is indeed a noble idea but don’t just drop off that old PC on the doorstep of your nearby church, school or non-profit organization. Equipment that might be obsolete for you might also be obsolete for that organization.

The National Christina Foundation is an organization that matches donors to worthwhile charities while maintaining minimum standards.

If you’re thinking of donating to a specific organization, make sure you talk with its staff or volunteers first to make sure the computer is needed.

Of course, you can always try to sell your old equipment. But you have to ask yourself whether it’s worth the hassle.

Another option is to hand it down to a friend or family member. My son took our old 36-inch Sony TV to his apartment at UCLA. I was glad to get it out of the house and he and his roommates are happy to have a relatively nice TV.