computers waiting to be recycled

Electronic waste, consisting of discarded computers, televisions, cell phones, fax machines, stereos and other electronic equipment, is a massive problem in California. Monitors and televisions cannot be put into landfills because of their lead content. Other electronic equipment also contains heavy metals including mercury, arsenic, cadmium, among others. Computers under five years old and other working electronics can generally be reused, while older computers and broken electronics are generally recycled. Please donate or recycle your old electronics.

How to Donate or Recycle Electronic Equipment

Drop Off Locations

  • Thrift Shops and Charitable Organizations Generally, charitable organizations will accept computers that are less than 5 years old and in good condition. Many will also take other electronics in good working condition. For donation options, download the Re-Use Guide (PDF) and look under the "computer equipment" column. Be sure to call before taking items in because electronics acceptance policies often change.

    Goodwill - Drop off computers, laptops, televisions, networking equipment, and cell phones, working or not, at any Goodwill Donation Center free of charge. Goodwill will sort the electronics for reuse and recycling. Usable electronics will be data cleansed, refurbished and loaded with a legal operating system for resale in Goodwill stores. Older electronics will be de-manufactured and recycled. Visit Goodwill's website for Donation Center locations.

    St. Vincent de Paul - Accepts almost all electronics, working or not, at their stores in San Mateo County. There is no charge. Does not accept small electronics such as cooking items and lamps.

    Green Citizen - Accepts anything that plugs in or runs on batteries, working or not at their locations in the Bay Area free of charge. They also take cables, cords, lightbulbs, and many other items.

  • Transfer Stations - Six transfer stations in San Mateo County accept electronics for recycling. None of the electronics brought to transfer stations are refurbished for reuse -all are de-manufactured and recycled. Fees may be charged for monitors and televisions. The fee depends upon size and ranges from $10 to approximately $40, but can be higher in the case of the largest televisions. There is generally no cost for recycling other electronic equipment such as fax machines, printers, wiring, VCRs, etc. This page lists haulers and their transfer station or collection yard information.

  • Other Electronics Recycling Options - For a comprehensive list of electronics recycling and reuse options, use the Recycling Center Search Database and search under the "Electronics" category.

Pickup Options

  • Charitable Organizations
    Goodwill picks up for free from businesses with over 20 computers, and charges a small fee to pick up less than 20 computers. Data destruction guaranteed. Call 415-575-2150 to schedule a pickup.

    St. Vincent de Paul picks up most electronics for free equipment within the County whether working or not, with no charge; accepts most electronics. Call (650) 871-6844.

    Green Citizen picks up for free from businesses as long as you have at least 10 or more of the qualifying items. If you have fewer than 10 qualifying items, there is a $100 pickup fee. Go to their website or call 650-493-8700x103.

  • Haulers
    Several garbage companies will accept computers with various stipulations. Contact each for more information.

    Shoreway Environmental Center

    Recology of the Coast

    Recology San Mateo County

    GreenWaste Recovery

    South San Francisco Scavenger

  • For other Pickup Options, use the Recycling Center Search Database
    Advanced Search.
    Search under the Electronics category and click "Pick-up" under "Services."

The Electronics Recycling Process

What happens to your electronics after you drop it off for recycling? Go on a virtual field trip to an electronics recycling facility and find out.

Hazards of Electronic Waste

Computer monitors and TVs contain Cathode Ray Tubes, or CRTs. There are about four pounds of lead and other harmful materials in computer monitors and TVs, requiring these two items to be regulated as hazardous waste.

Heavy Metals Play Forever - Don't dump lead and mercury, recycle your electronics
Photography by Marilynne Morshead

Computer Recycling Legislation

Purchasing Previously Owned Computer Equipment

Search our database for "Electronics - Computer Equipment" to determine local locations.

eWaste Facts & Figures

  • Californians buy more than 2.2 million new computer systems each year. Currently, about 50% of US households own a computer.
  • Analysts estimate that more than 6,000 computers become obsolete in California every day.
  • US government researchers estimate that three-quarters of all computers ever sold in the United States remain stockpiled, awaiting disposal.
  • It takes about six hundred pounds of fossil fuels and chemicals to create the chips for one personal computer. Seventy pounds of water are used to rinse out impurities in a single chip.
  • Currently, over 50 tons of electronics are recycled in San Mateo County each month.

Additional resources

Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition
Californians Against Waste Californians Against Waste
National Recycling Coalition The National Recycling Coalition
CalRecycle CalRecycle
SB20 eWaste Consumer Information (CalRecycle) SB20 eWaste Consumer Information (CalRecycle)