Experts offer tips on recycling old items for new year

Experts offer tips on recycling old items for new year

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - It's time for the Christmas lights to come down and that tree to get tossed out. But recycling your trees isn't the only way to go green. If you got some new electronics over the holiday, for the sake of Mother Nature, recycle your old technology.

Americans alone throw away two to three millions tons of electronics every year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. The toxic waste from all those gadgets causes damage to our soil and water and can eventually affect our health. Laptops, computers, tablets, smart phones, CD's and DVD's, printers, TV's, and game consoles should all be recycled. "It doesn't decompose," says Stan Kilp, the general manager of Best Buy in Myrtle Beach. "It's not good for our environment. So it's very important to do the right thing and recycle the electronics."

So as you go to recycle, you want to make sure you're doing it through a responsible processor. You can't just toss that old computer in the recycle bin and put it out to the curb. Stores like Best Buy and Staples offer programs to take back old gadgets and recycle them. They'll reuse or resell anything that still works. Then if it can't be resold, it may be stripped for parts that can be sold separately. And whatever is left will be sent to a vendor to be broken down and destroyed.

Best Buy just asks that you only bring in five items at a time to be recycled. Horry County Recycling Centers will also take your old electronics to recycle. Or if you have the time and patience, you can always try to resell on your own. Gazelle ( and BuyBack World ( will pay flat rates for used gadgets.

Before you recycle or resell your old electronics, it's crucial to erase all of your data first. Otherwise all your old information could end up in the wrong hands. Deleting files and even formatting your hard drive will not cut it. Both actions really just remove the information the hard drive needs in order to find the data, not the data itself. If your old technology gets in the wrong hands and they have the right equipment, deleted files and formatted hard drives can be recovered. That means your financial information, your pictures, passwords, address books, anything on your computer could be at risk.

To be sure your data is removed beyond all practical ability to recover it, you should use a wiping or erasing tool. First, backup the data so you can transfer it to the new computer or smartphone. Then, you can wipe everything. This will overwrite every sector of the hard drive with binary 1's and 0's, basically taking it back to factory mode. "It's going back into the settings. And usually you can do it directly in the settings. It'll walk you through how to restore and go back to normal settings," explains Kilp.

With older computers, it's even a good idea to literally drill holes in the actual hard drives. That absolutely guarantees the data cannot be retrieved. Newer laptops use flash storage on their hard drives, so drilling is not necessary. To be on the safe side, once the wipe is done, restart the computer or smartphone just to make sure everything is back to factory settings, and none of your information is left on there.

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