This article was originally published on August 20, 2020 and has been updated.
With all of the new gadgets unveiled at the recently-wrapped CES, many may be eyeing a tech upgrade this year. And for the lucky ones who scored big gifts over the holidays, that shiny new device may already be in hand.
But before that older go-to gadget is lost forever to that drawer of has-been tech, make a plan to part with it as responsibly as you can, not only to protect your privacy and personal data, but also for the good of the planet.
After all, the world already generates 50 million metric tons of electronic waste a year, according to the World Economic Forum. That number could double by 2050 if consumers and companies don’t change the way they’re discarding their smartphones, laptops, PCs, gaming systems, and printers, which can contain toxic substances like lead, mercury, and cadmium that shouldn’t end up in landfills.
“There are other options besides leaving it in the closet or chucking a device in the trash,” says Shelley Zimmer, global print sustainability and security marketing manager at HP. “Making sure it goes on to have another life is the responsible thing to do for the environment, and for society.”
Here’s a look at how you can make smart, responsible choices when it’s time to upgrade to something new.
First things first: Transfer and protect your data
No matter what you do with an existing device, you’ll want to preserve important files and photos and protect your personal information — including passwords.
Craig Petronella, a cybersecurity and digital forensics expert, says that a lot of tech owners don’t take all the necessary steps, leaving their information — from bank account numbers to sensitive email messages — vulnerable. “It’s up to the consumer to properly wipe their device,” says Petronella, founder and president of Petronella Cybersecurity.
Research from security company Rapid7, for example, shows used devices sold in secondhand shops are filled with prior owners’ personal data, including Social Security and passport numbers, email addresses, and credit card information.