Computers, tablets, phones… What to do with our old electronic devices?


They overflow from our cupboards by the hundreds of millions: computers, tablets, cameras, game consoles, audio equipment, not to mention our mobile phones, so massively purchased and so quickly replaced. While some could bring happiness to new users, thus sparing the polluting manufacture of a new device, while others could be recycled into raw materials. So many reasons to empty these saturated cupboards.


In a first pile, place the objects that can reasonably still be used. In the second, relegate those that can only interest a recycler: broken devices and those that are outdated to the point of no longer of interest to anyone. Examples: pre-2010 mobiles, pre-2000 cameras or computers.


Some old devices, despite their canonical age, may still be of interest to collectors. This is the case with the very first Sony music players, certain Nokia or Apple mobiles, old Thomson computers, etc. Other devices remain useful because working models are rare – some camcorders that can play old home videos, for example. How to identify them? If someone needs a device, its value on a classifieds site is often non-zero. Nothing prevents you, moreover, to offer your device there free of charge.

Throughout France, associations are concerned about safeguarding computer or video game heritage, and gladly accept donations of old computers or old consoles. The most serious restore them and then use them to mount educational exhibitions, in particular to introduce the video games of yesteryear to new generations. In the Paris region, we think, for example, of the MO5 association, but others, less known and also deserving, exist.


Erase all personal information from your devices. Reset smartphones, computers and tablets, clear camera memory, erase camcorder tapes, delete contacts and photos from old cell phones.


There is no lack of causes for those who wish to donate a device that works well.

  • Illectronisme. One in six French people is a victim of illectronism, sometimes because they do not have a computer or tablet. The Emmaüs Connect association collects smartphones and laptops for them in eleven major French cities. Please note, only devices less than five years old are accepted.
    This association should not be confused with its parent company, Emmaüs France, which also collects a variety of electronic devices for resale in its stores. In addition, it employs people in social and professional difficulty. Dozens of collection points are available on French territory. Many other associations come to the aid of people in difficulty, some being referenced on the geographical search engine of the Ecological Transition Agency (Ademe).
Read also Article reserved for our subscribers Illectronism: the all-digital left-behind
  • Aid to Least Developed Countries. Donations of smartphones and computers to less developed countries are not unanimous. Shipping is expensive, and the equipment risks ending up at the end of its life in particularly polluting landfills. If this track interests you, donate only recent equipment, and choose the association which will take care of the transport with great care. About ten of them are listed on Don ordi, without evaluation of their reliability.
  • Around you. Ask your loved ones to find out if your devices may be of interest to them: headphones, consoles, hi-fi systems, tablets or others. You can also ask them if they know of people your devices may be of interest to: students, penniless households, and more. If you are the parent of a child, consider getting closer to the school’s parents’ association. Also think of the Donnons site, a kind of Leboncoin of donation, which allows devices to be offered to Internet users living near home.
  • Other causes. The Monextel company, which offers to buy recent smartphones and pay the sum to Amnesty International, the Jane-Goodall Institute, or dozens of other associations. The sending is done by post.


What to do with devices that are broken, out of fashion or that you failed to donate? Avoid throwing them in ordinary trash cans: they are both particularly polluting and rich in recyclable raw materials. Dispose of them in WEEE stamped bins (waste electrical and electronic equipment). They will be crushed to recover their plastics, glasses and metals, preventing petrochemical factories and mines from turning unnecessarily. Local waste reception centers generally have bins for WEEE, but there are more practical ones.

  • Stores. Large electronics stores, such as Fnac, Darty or Boulanger, are required to collect WEEE. Collection points exist in the shops of three operators: Bouygues Telecom, Orange and Free. Many other stores with collection bins are referenced on the geographic search engine of Ecologic, an actor financed by the eco-contribution paid by consumers upon purchase and managed by manufacturers. Enter your postal code and choose “Small appliances mixed”.
  • Mailing. If you want to get rid of your old cell phones but don’t have to travel around, you can print a free return label or even receive a postage-paid envelope in the mail. To do this, connect to Jedonnemontelephone, a site run by the eco-organization Ecosystem, also funded by the eco-contribution and managed by a group of major manufacturers.
Read also Plan B: where are our old smartphones going?