The average American replaces their computer and television every four to five years. When you go to recycle these electronic items, you will likely recycle the power cable along with your device. But what if you forget and leave it at home? It is easy to do this if the cable is detachable.
Computer and television cables are just as recyclable as the items they power. In fact, some might argue they are even easier to recycle. They contain fewer materials, have fewer parts and are not made with any toxic materials. In most cases, the place you take them for recycling is the same place you would take your computer or television. We have suggestions for what to do with any unwanted computer or television cables in your home. If you cannot recycle them, you should be able to find a way to reuse them.
What are computer and television cables made of?
Computer and television cables are made with two materials: metal wire, which is typically aluminum or copper, and the rubbery coating, which can be either plastic or rubber.
The metal wire conducts electricity and delivers it to your computer or television. Electricity enters the cord through to the two- or three-pronged plug at one end, goes up through the wire, and is delivered to your device through a second plug that attaches to your computer.
The rubbery coating over the wires is also called insulation. It keeps the wires from delivering an electric shock to you, your family members and your pets. It also protects the thin, fragile wires from damage.
It is important not to use power cables that are frayed, cut open or otherwise damaged. If your computer or television has a frayed cable, see if you can purchase a replacement for it. Another safety hazard is leaving cables in open areas where people can trip over them. Run cables behind the device or another piece of furniture if possible. If you cannot do that, run the cable along the wall.
If a power cord feels unusually hot, unplug it immediately. If the problem persists, recycle it and replace it with a new one. All the pieces of your power cord – the copper, insulation and plugs – are recyclable if you can get them to the right place.
How to recycle computer and television cables
The best way to recycle a computer or television cable is to recycle it with its device. There are many places to recycle old electronic equipment. Many communities have e-waste recycling centers at a hazardous waste center or as a stand-alone facility.
Make sure you check your recycling center’s hours and policies before you drop off items. The electronic waste recycling center in Long Beach is only open on Saturdays and Sundays. On the other hand, Bellefonte’s (PA) electronic recycling center is open six days a week. Some places may limit the amount of e-waste you drop off or charge you for their services.
Even if you are not taking a television or computer, these centers should still take the cables that would accompany these items. They can mix them in with their other electronics and recycle them.
Private business or nonprofits may be able to take your electronic waste. The Lower East Side Ecology Center in Brooklyn is a long-time electronics recycler that can take your unwanted computer and television cables. Businesses, nonprofits and schools sometimes hold special e-waste collection events instead of (or in addition to) permanent local government e-waste collection programs. Watch for these events as well, and turn in your power cables there.
It is worth checking whether your television or computer manufacturer has any types of take-back program. Apple can recycle their computers and all peripherals, including computer cables, keyboards and mice.
If you have a lot of power cables for some reason (maybe your company just ditched a bunch of computers, or you have several old televisions to recycle), you may be able to sell them or give them to a scrap metal dealership. Power cords typically end up at scrap metal yards because they can extract the copper and sell it to their vendors. Call the scrap dealer nearest you to see if they buy or take power cords. Find out if they have a minimum weight or volume.
How to reuse computer and television cables
Another option is to donate orphaned computer and television cables to an electronics reuse organization. Many cities have a nonprofit that specializes in taking electronic waste and repairing it. Free Geek in Portland and Computer Recycling of Virginia are a few examples. These groups use their electronics repair programs as a way to help the environment and meet a charitable goal such as providing job training services or getting good-quality computers they can give to students and people in need.
Many of these computer reuse and recycling organizations have retail stores where they sell secondhand electronics. They are a great destination for people looking for new cables for their existing equipment. Any place that sells used computers or televisions should welcome cables in good condition.
If all else fails, try putting your orphaned computer or television cables on Freecycle, Craigslist or a similar site. You never know; someone out there may need the power cord you are offering and be grateful that they can avoid shelling out money for a brand new one.