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Raising cash by recycling electronics doesn’t just help your group, it also helps prevent e-waste by keeping millions of TVs, computers etc. out of landfills.

But more electronics recycling programs have become available recently, not just for cell phones, but for many different types of electronics, including, mp3 players, digital cameras, calculators, gaming systems, Blu-Ray players, camcorders, camera Lenses, computers, laptops, digital cameras, external hard rives, GPS devices, home audio equipment, LCD monitors, movies, PDAs, projectors, satellite radios, video games, e-readers etc.

It’s best to check with each company directly, to see which items they will accept and how many items they will accept at a time.

(Also read: Recycle Ink Cartridges and Cell phones.)

Recycling programs

Best Buy has recently announced their buy back program and Gazelle has been paying for used electronics online for a few years now. Buy.com and MacMall also offer trade-in programs and now there are two more big players in the mix, the Amazon Trade-in Store and InstantSale eBay.

When we looked at the criteria for items to be turned in, none of these companies accepted water damaged items. But as long as an item is still in working condition, even electronics with severe scratches were OK to turn in. Other criteria, like how many items they will accept and which ones differed from company to company, so be sure to check the small print before you send anything.

It’s also very important to shop around for the best price! We’ve checked several of the online recyclers to see how much value they assessed for a MacBook Pro laptop and a desktop computer and got vastly different price offers. Make sure you have the exact model numbers of your item(s) on hand before you start your search.

Even though the number of programs are increasing, not all them them make sense for every fundraising group and not all of them pay cash.

All of these programs can be used for smaller fundraising efforts, but what if you’re planning a larger fundraiser with higher earnings potential?

used electronics recycling

Options for larger electronics fundraising events:

Local electronics recyclers:

Programs offered through local recyclers vary greatly. An advantage of using a local company for your fundraising event is that you will most likely get paid cash and it doesn’t matter if the electronics being turned in are in working condition or not. This saves a lot of time and volunteer power, because the individual electronics don’t have to be scrutinized.

– You can search for a local recycler, either online (including your city’s website) or in your local yellow pages. Some recyclers offer tailored fundraising programs that help with promotion, collection and disposal. (Use the search box at the top and search for “recycle electronics for cash”.)

– When working with a local electronics recycler, be sure to ask what the rules and restrictions are as to what items will be accepted.

– Also, try to find out what other groups have used a local electronics recycler, then contact these groups and ask for references and tips on this fundraising opportunity.

– Companies that take non-working electronics are usually working with state recycling programs. Each state has different laws, programs and rules.

Even though these types of programs don’t require you to check each item, it may be to your advantage to separate at least the newer working laptops, computers and smart phones from the other electronics, because you’ll receive much higher value for them through the online recycling programs:

Online electronics recyclers:

Online recyclers require you to either collect the electronics and then mail them in, or allow you to set up a ‘group’ through their website; then anyone who’d like to take part in your recycling event can send in their own electronics.

Currently we’ve found only Gazelle’s online electronics recycling program and Funding Factory’s recycling program to accommodate larger groups specifically for fundraising. But check with the others listed at the top as well, as this is a fairly new way to raise funds and programs are continuously changing.

Whichever program you choose, make sure you get all the details, including how you will get paid, in writing. Whereas one program may simply send you a check to cash in, another may only send you gift cards to an online store.

How to prepare:

Any electronics that contain personal information, like cell phones, hard drives and computers, should have all their data erased. Cell phones should also have their SIM cards removed. Remove ink cartridges from non-working printers and recycle them separately.

How do you get paid?

Local recyclers will issue a check to cash once your items have been sent to them and weighed. Find out how to estimate the weight of donated recyclables as you’re collecting them, so you can estimate your fundraising income before the check arrives.

Online recyclers have different options when it comes to paying you, which don’t always include cash. We’ve found that currently only Gazelle offers cash payments, while all other online recycling programs offer gift cards or credit to their online stores.

This may not be a problem, unless you’re raising funds for building renovations or an individual’s healthcare costs for example. All trade-in programs we’ve checked that do not pay cash, issue gift cards that can be used at stores that are selling electronics equipment like computers, printers etc. If you choose to receive gift cards through Amazon’s program you’ll be able to use them to shop on Amazon.com which sells just about anything you can imagine, including books and teaching materials.

What happens to the used electronics?

Companies that take used electronics in working condition either resell them through channels like eBay, Amazon, or wholesalers, or send unusable items off to recyclers who will properly dispose of them.

If you have items that won’t be accepted by the program you’ve signed up with, you can check with Gazelle’s recycler network for places that will take them.

Local recyclers usually work together with a state recycling program. Each state has their own recycling program and not all states recycle all electronics. This also means that items that can’t be recycled will still end up in a landfill, unfortunately. (More fundraising ideas.)

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