Digital cameras first appeared in U.S. stores in the early 1990s, and it didn’t take long for them to pass film cameras as the preferred way to capture images. The ability to view and edit images right away as well as avoid purchasing film has made digital cameras the preferred product among amateur and professional photographers alike.
As digital cameras have taken over the market, recycling options have become more widespread. And unlike film cameras, digital cameras remain popular enough that you may be able to sell or give them away. However, when neither of those are a possibility, how can you get rid of your unwanted digital camera in an environmentally friendly manner?
Why is it important to recycle digital cameras?
Like all electronics, digital cameras are manufactured with valuable materials that can be put back to use. Their microchips have gold and platinum, the wiring contains copper, and aluminum is used elsewhere in the device.
Digital cameras also often come with rechargeable nickel-cadmium or lithium-ion batteries, both of which contain elements that can be detrimental to humans if consumed in high enough quantities. Lead, a heavy metal, may be found in solder inside the camera.
None of these elements belong in a landfill or incinerator, where they can escape and damage water, soil and air. Instead, they should be reused in other products. By recycling metals, manufacturers do not have to buy as many raw materials that are dug out of environmentally-damaging mines. When it comes time to dispose of your digital camera, make sure it gets recycled.
How to recycle digital cameras
There are more options than ever for responsibly disposing of old, unwanted digital cameras. Major retailers with electronics recycling programs, including Best Buy and Staples, will take them off your hands at no charge. Check their websites for their specific policies.
You can recycle your digital camera and support a worthy cause by donating it to a charitable organization like Recycle for Breast Cancer
or Recycling for Charity
. These groups sell old digital cameras, cell phones, MP3 players and other electronics to raise money for their important work.
Several digital camera manufacturers offer take-back programs for their products. They include Canon
will take back digital cameras and other items at no charge.
Communities with electronic take-back programs should also be able to accept digital cameras. Check with your local solid waste management district to determine if they have a permanent e-waste collection facility at their recycling center or if you need to wait for a special e-waste collection event.
When you recycle your digital camera, make sure you include items like battery chargers and the cords to connect the camera to the computer. They also contain metals and plastic that can be recycled.
How to reuse digital cameras
If your digital camera is still working, consider selling it on Craigslist or a similar site. There are also companies like KEH Camera and B&H Camera Video that buy digital cameras, lenses and other parts online.
A local nonprofit, school or day care center may appreciate a working digital camera to capture images of special events. Check with them to see if they are interested in a donation. They may be able to write you a receipt so you can take the donation as a tax deduction.
It is also worth asking family members and friends if they are interested in your old digital camera. A younger brother or sister could want one to help them get started with photography. A grandparent who travels a lot and needs a compact camera that fits in a purse or fanny pack might be grateful for your gift.
How to recycle digital camera batteries
Most entities that take your digital camera will take the entire thing, including the rechargeable battery. But if you purchased an extra battery, or have one that wears out and must be disposed of, that company may not want it.
An organization called Call2Recycle
partners with a number of businesses and government agencies to accept rechargeable batteries for recycling. Visit their website to find a collection location near you. Drop-offs are often co-located with cell phone stores, tool stores, big box retailers or your local recycling center. Sites that partner with Call2Recycle should take your batteries for free.
How to recycle SD cards
SD cards from digital cameras are very difficult to recycle. They are not accepted through manufacturer take-back initiatives, and no companies accept them in the mail or stores. Your best option to recycle an SD card is to check with your local solid waste management district to see if they have an electronics recycling program that will take them.
Another option is to use your old SD card with another device. If you have four SD cards you can turn them into a Solid State Drive (SSD), a type of hard drive, using these instructions from Gizmodo