Giving your old tech new life avoiding e-waste @washingtonpost

Chris Velazco writes about that forlorn drawer somewhere that’s full of old batteries, zip-ties, cables and gadgets you haven’t touched in years.

That stuff might look like junk, but don’t be fooled: Some of it is potential e-waste, and the last thing you should do is toss it in the trash.

Many of your old phones and tablets are packed with components containing rare metals that are difficult to find and pull out of the ground. Once those components wind up in the landfill, there’s no easy way to recover them, so the limited supply we already have shrinks even further. Other kinds of e-waste, such as rechargeable batteries, often contain chemicals that could pose problems for the environment or human health.

Reuse your old tech

Rather than letting your old tech languish, consider finding a way to re-use it. Here are a few options that could give those gadgets a new lease on life, sorted by device type.

  • Smart alarm clock: Apps such as “Alarm Clock for Me” can turn old iPhones and Android devices into helpful bedside clocks. And if those phones support always-on voice commands for Siri or Google Assistant, you could also use them to control some of your smart home gadgets without getting out of bed.
  • Security camera: Apps such as Alfred can turn old phones into makeshift security cameras you can check remotely from your current phone or from the web.
  • Smart TV remotes: Rokus and Apple TVs come with tiny remotes, and they’re very easy to lose track of around the living room. With the right apps, though, your old phone could become a remote for your media streaming device — and one you can type names of shows into, no less.


  • Dedicated video call station: If your tablet has a half-decent front-facing camera, it might make for a decent video calling machine. Load it up with Zoom, Facebook Messenger or Skype and keep it on a countertop or your desk. Note: Much older tablets may struggle with this. If that’s the case, consider the following.
  • Digital photo frame: You probably bought the tablet for its screen size, so put it to good use again by displaying your photos on it. Apple’s Photos app for iPads has a built-in tool to create looping slide shows from pictures in an album, and the Google Photos website lets you do the same on Android or Apple devices.


  • Media server: If you have loads of home movies or legitimately acquired digital versions of films taking up hard drive space, there’s an easy way to get them running on your TV: put them all on an older computer (or an external hard drive connected to one) and install the media server app Plex. After a little setup, install the corresponding Plex app on your smart TV or streaming device, and you can watch all those classics on the big screen.
  • Donate it: Some organizations accept donations of old computers for various causes. Your mileage will vary depending on where you live, but Digitunity is a helpful place to start: You can punch in your Zip code to see if nearby schools or nonprofit groups could benefit from your old hardware.

See the video below and read more in the article here.

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