Is It Illegal to Throw Away My Old Electrical Devices?

Electronics have become an integral part of our lives to the point where things we may have never dreamed of being electronic are now run by circuits and batteries. The wide adoption of “smart” gadgets has no doubt made our lives more convenient, but it has also created another significant problem—electronic waste. Today’s electronics do not last forever, and in some cases cheaper devices are built to last only a short time and then be thrown out and replaced completely. That means our landfills and recycling centers are loading up with old electronic parts that could be polluting the environment.

The biggest pollution threat with electronic waste is lead. The most common form of solder used in electronics manufacturing is an alloy of lead and tin, as it melts quickly, adheres well, and is extremely cheap to purchase in large quantities. However, this lead could in turn be polluting the groundwater table and even be harming the environment should an electronic device be burned. As such, laws have been put in place regulating the disposal of electronic devices.

So how do you dispose of your old electronic devices? Check out our blog to learn what to do with several different things when their usefulness comes to an end.

Electrical Wiring

In the overwhelming majority of cases, this is perfectly acceptable to just throw away. But we do not advise it. Most electrical wiring found in homes these days is actually pure copper, and copper prices are surging due to falling availability, closing mines, and increased demand. Taking your old wiring to a recycling center may actually net yourself a nice little payday, particularly if you have a pretty substantial amount of copper to get rid of.

Switches & Outlets

Switches and outlets grow old and eventually wear out. While this may not happen for years or even decades, the good news is that disposing of these old components is easy. Outlets and switches can be thrown away in your standard trash without issue. The same can be said for the majority of your standard electrical equipment. However, some electrical devices that are made from plastics or metal can actually be recycled, so be sure took for symbols indicating this.


Batteries are an area where people often find themselves confused as to what they can and can’t throw away. Alkaline batteries encompass your standard AA, AAA, or nine-volt cells that you might buy from the supermarket, online, or really just about anywhere. These cells are filled with an alkaline liquid, and therefore they are legal and safe to dispose of in your normal trash. This also applies to things like button-cell batteries, C-cell, D-cell, and several other types of batteries.

Lead-acid batteries are also commonly found in virtually every home, but in much smaller numbers. In fact, the only ones you might have are the batteries used to start your car. These batteries cannot be thrown away in your standard trash and must be recycled at a hazardous waste center. However, if you are replacing a car battery, most auto parts stores will actually take and recycle your old battery for you. If you look at your receipt, you will likely notice a “core charge” on it, usually for around $20 or so. This is essentially a deposit that you put down so that you will bring back your old battery for recycling. Once you do, this charge is refunded.

Finally, lithium batteries have surged in popularity over the last half-decade or so. The overwhelming majority of our electronics that are manufactured with a rechargeable battery cell use lithium-based batteries as they are affordable, dependable, and provide a great amount of power in an extremely small and lightweight package. Our cell phones, laptop computers, and virtually every other rechargeable personal electronics device uses a lithium battery. However, lithium batteries are also notoriously dangerous if mishandled. For this reason, anything that has a lithium battery must be properly recycled at a hazardous waste disposal or a designated battery disposal site.

Computers, Tablets & Smartphones

Thanks to the numerous circuit boards in these electronic devices, they must be properly disposed of at a recycling center. However, because these devices also handle a lot of potentially sensitive data, we also strongly recommend completely wiping the hard drive and potentially using a third-party hard drive erasing software to make sure your data is fully and completely removed. You never know where that drive might end up after you surrender the device. Likewise, some of these devices may depend on a lithium battery, which means they must be handled properly.

Televisions & Display Screens

Much like computers and tablets, televisions and display screens must be properly recycled at a hazardous waste or electronics recycling center. Some types of televisions or display screens contain gasses or materials that could be toxic if they are allowed to escape, and that means these devices need to be properly recycled so that they can be taken apart carefully.

Whether you’re looking to rewire your home or simply install hidden cables for your new television, trust Lightning Bug Electric to take care of the issue for you. Dial (404) 471-3847 now and schedule your service.