Should you recycle old wall warts? (or other old stuff)

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There comes a point in every geek’s life when he or she looks at the garage and realizes there’s a problem. Let’s just say you’re like me — for the last thirty-odd years you’ve been collecting little odds and ends, knowing you’ll use it “someday.” Along the way you’ve accumulated a staggering number of splitters, RCA cables, USB cords, and things like that. You probably have the plug from every device you’ve ever owned, because you know that sooner or later you’ll need it and let’s face facts those things are expensive.


An old short story by the prophetic Philip K. Dick coined the term “kipple.” In context, it meant the kind of trash that just seems to pile up by itself. Old wrappers, newspapers, that sort of thing. When I think of kipple, though, I think of all that formerly-useful stuff that still isn’t quite degraded enough to toss. Kipple is the sort of thing you are sure you will use someday and you never will.

If you’re like me, about half your house is fairly kipple-ized and the other half is looking threatened. Something, as they say, must be done.

And so you look around critically, you decide that maybe you don’t need every wall wart you’ve ever owned. All this hoarding predates online shopping and you realize that really, you probably could replace a lot of this stuff very inexpensively and really quickly, even though the Radio Shack in your neighborhood shut its doors years ago. You’ll go to a retailer like Solid Signal, where you can get over 50,000 hard-to-find electronics parts. It’s easy and your stuff will be delivered to your door pretty darn quick. It’s a pretty good incentive to clean house.

So what do you do?

If you’ve read this blog for a while you know I’m pretty big on responsible recycling. Electronic waste is a big problem facing us today, because we generate so darn much of it. In fact the biggest problem with electronic waste is that we generate it faster than we can recycle it. That’s a temporary problem though. I watched in the 1990s as recycled paper went from impossibly expensive to incredibly cheap and common and I believe the e-cycling industry in this country is just getting started. A lot of electronics recycling and reclamation has been taking place overseas, but that may be changing. I think that high-quality electronic reclamation is going to be a growth area. So don’t worry about the overflow right now. Certainly, don’t use it as an excuse to toss that stuff in the landfill.

What should you e-cycle?

Here a short list of things that should be turned in as electronic waste:

  • Anything with a computer chip
  • Anything with that green plastic circuit board anywhere
  • Anything with copper wire
  • Anything with an LCD screen

I am thinking, there are a lot of things you’re going to want to send to an electronics recycling facility that you didn’t consider before. First of all that box of wall warts should all go there. If nothing else, the copper in the wires is worth money. But I’m thinking of old cables, splitters, and remotes. Come on, you know you have a box of remotes. Kind of silly because they only operate VHS players from the 1980s. You know I’m right.

Where can you take your electronic recycling?

It really differs from area to area. Some cities and towns will have electronic recycling as part of their household hazardous waste collection. In some states, any store that sells electronic stuff as one of their primary lines of business has to take electronic waste. There are traveling “roadshows” for e-waste and sometimes you can even sell it by the pound.

The one place you should never take electronic waste is a charity. They’re going to have to dispose of it and it takes away from their role in helping people.


Trust me, there are a lot of things you’re holding onto that you just don’t need anymore. And if you make a mistake, there’s always where you can find a great selection of the stuff that makes your stuff work.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 9,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.