Recycling your old office equipment
  • Category:
    Small Business Energy Savings
  • Published:
    September 1, 2021
  • Updated:
    February 2, 2022

Recycling Your Old Office Equipment

Recycling old office equipment is a growing trend for good reason. Throwing electronics in the trash can negatively impact the environment and may even be illegal in some communities. Old office equipment might seem worthless to you, but many charities are eager to accept your cast-offs and keep them from ending up in a landfill. These are just two of many reasons why you should recycle old office equipment when it’s time to replace it.

Why should you recycle old office equipment?

Recycling your old office equipment and figuring out how to recycle office supplies are great ways to begin transitioning to environmentally friendly work practices that are good for your business’s reputation and your bottom line. Caring for the environment is just one of the benefits of having an eco-friendly business.

  • Limit business expenses. Before getting rid of old equipment, check if it’s possible to have it refurbished. You may be able to upgrade without buying entirely new machines. Or you may be able to sell back old equipment to the manufacturer for refurbishing and thus capture a portion of its value. Either way, you can reduce a business expense.
  • Conserve natural resources. Because manufacturing electronics consumes natural resources, from precious metals to petrochemicals, it makes sense to maximize the value you get from them. The same is true for furniture and office supplies.
  • Reduce pollution. Old computers, printers, scanners and copiers contain lead, mercury, arsenic, and rare earth minerals that can pollute the soil and leach into nearby water supplies.
  • Enhance your business reputation. Donating old equipment can bring positive attention to your company. More often than not, charities value used office furniture and excess office supplies.
  • Cut taxes. When you give electronics, furniture and supplies to qualified charities, they can be considered in-kind donations for tax purposes.
  • Save energy. When you reuse, refurbish, repurpose or recycle, you’re maximizing the utility of equipment and saving the energy required for manufacturing and disposal. You can save energy with a circular economy in this way.

What office equipment can be recycled?

What office equipment can be recycled?

The first step in getting rid of unwanted and out-of-date equipment is understanding what office equipment can be recycled.

  • Furniture. Furniture is best donated. Because much of it is made of mixed materials, it can be expensive to process for recycling. Metals, plastics, woods, and upholstery must be separated in many cases.
  • Computers and other electronics. Specialists in recycling electronics strip valuable metals from devices and pull out specific parts for reuse. Copiers, scanners, toner cartridges, mobile devices, computers, televisions and smart speakers are examples of recyclable electronics.
  • Paper and plastic products. Many businesses produce paper and plastic waste in the form of old files, binders, packaging and more. In most municipalities, these materials can be separated and recycled like residential waste. Cabinets of useless old files are a good motivation for going paperless at work.
  • Batteries. Batteries contain harmful chemicals like nickel, cadmium, cobalt, zinc, alkaline and lithium that must be kept out of the environment. Local and state authorities can advise you on your options by battery type.
  • Packing materials. From wooden pallets to packing peanuts to glass jars, you can recycle or repurpose many of the packaging materials you use.
  • Books. Whether pulped with recycled paper or donated to a charity, books have value.

The list of office materials and equipment that you can recycle is long and varied. To get an idea of the possibilities, the State of New Jersey has compiled a list of what office equipment can be recycled and what other materials can be repurposed or reused.

How to recycle your office supplies

Once you’ve determined what kinds of equipment offices can recycle, the next step is to figure out how to recycle office supplies and where you can donate unwanted office equipment.

1. Bring old equipment to a recycling center.

The easiest way to recycle old office equipment is to bring it to a recycling center or have a specialist in office clean-outs come to you. Local recycling regulations covering recycling electronics can vary from place to place, so call ahead to understand what you can and cannot recycle in your area. Be sure to wipe sensitive personal and business information from all of your electronic devices.

2. Donate unwanted office equipment and supplies.

Charities often welcome used electronics, furniture and supplies as a way to cut their operating expenses. Some also refurbish donations for resale at a profit.

Where can I donate office equipment?

Leading manufacturer brands and retailers understand the value of recycling. Many have programs to make it easier. National charities like Habitat for Humanity, Amvets and the Salvation Army are usually happy to receive your donation–but call in advance to check what they can use and what they’ll take.

3. Refurbish old office equipment.

When computers malfunction, you may get hit with unforeseen business costs to replace them. Worn out desks and furniture can also be expensive to replace. You can reduce costs by repairing and refurbishing broken equipment and fixtures. Small-business equipment loans may be able to help you cover some of these expenses.

4. Repurpose equipment when possible.

Put old office electronics to work as hand-me-downs. Older machines can be given to temps, interns and contractors. Employees often value old computers to give to their children for use in schoolwork. Creative reuse for office furniture depends on the style of your company. Metal file cabinets make planters that are conversation pieces. An old cubicle divider can become a billboard for office news.

5. Sell items that are still in good condition.

If your office cast-offs are in good condition, you can sell them. Most areas have liquidators that specialize in reselling office equipment and furniture. Type “sell office furniture” into a search engine and you’ll find dozens of options. Online sites like Ebay and CraigsList can also be effective places to sell.

Recycling office supplies is right for the planet and your business’s bottom line

The reasons why you should recycle old office equipment are many, running the gamut of being good for the environment, good for your company’s reputation and good for your finances. You’ll also be doing your part to save energy. Recycling, refurbishing, repurposing and donating are all excellent ways to get the most value from your initial investment. It’s no wonder recycling old office equipment is a growing trend and one you should consider for your small business.

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