*Hey, we’ve all been in this position: You just got a brand new TV for Christmas, and you want to get rid of the old one. Get it outta here is all you’re thinking about. But although it can be pretty temping to just toss your aging TV, iPhone 4S or Xbox 360 in the trash like regular garbage, it’s really the absolute last thing you should do.
Because your old electronics are full of toxic matter and if it makes it to a landfill, all the arsenic, lead, and cadmium goes with it. And from any angle, that would not be good. If those materials make it into landfills, they can potentially leak into our ecosystem, damaging plant and animal life and potentially impacting our food supply.
Aside from the green argument, there’s another good reason not to toss your old tech: Remember you’ve stored your passwords, bank info and other personal information over the years. Its safe there. If you throw away that old computer, there’s no telling whose hands your stuff might end up in.
“No one wants their personal business in the wrong hands, whether it’s just embarrassing, whether it ruins future job opportunities, or whether it’s in criminals’ hands who are going to swipe that data and take money from bank accounts,” says John S. Shegerian, co-founder and CEO of Electronics Retailers International (ERI), among the biggest e-waste recycling firms in the world. ERI offers data-deleting services as part of its recycling and refurbishing programs, particularly for its corporate clients.
“We [wipe data] for the highest-level people in big government, small government, large cities, and for people like us who are very worried now not only about where their stuff is going from an environmental perspective, but for their own personal data,” Shegerian says.
So, if you can’t just throw your old stuff away, what should you do with it?
Recycling companies like ERI can help you dispose of your old tech responsibly —ERI in particular partners with big-box retailers like Best Buy and Staples, both of which offer programs that make it easy to ditch your obsolete gear. You can also check with your local city or town government to see if it offers any recycling options. Some manufactures, likeApple, will also recycle your old stuff for you—in some cases, you’ll even get a gift card in return.
Just to be on the safe side, make sure to erase your data before recycling anything.
Put it to new use
You might think that old iPhone 5 is utterly obsolete now that you’ve got a shiny new iPhone 6 Plus, but it’s still a plenty capable device, even if it’s not on a wireless plan. Need some inspiration? Check out TIME’s list of things you can do with an old iPhone, including using it as a smart home control panel or a baby monitor.
Wait! You have two more options. Go to MSN.com to see what they are.