75% of Adults Don't Have a Device Disposal Plan, CNET Survey Finds

You can fix, sell or recycle your disused gadgets rather than throwing them out or keeping them in storage. Here's when and how.

Tamara Palmer Contributing writer
Tamara Palmer is a DJ, author and publisher of the small-batch print magazine California Eating.
Tamara Palmer
3 min read
stack of colorful phones against a pink background
Sarah Tew/CNET

According to a recent UN report, e-waste is on the rise across the world, with gadgets accumulating in the trash at a rate five times faster than they're recycled. A new CNET Survey reveals one potential reason why the problem may persist in the US: three in four adults (75%) don't have a definite plan for how to get rid of old devices they no longer use.

Big Tech is feeling the pressure to make products with more recycled materials that have longer lifespans. At CES 2024 in January, Lenovo, LG, Panasonic, Samsung and Sony all signed the Consumer Technology Circularity Initiative, a voluntary pledge to align with these goals for a positive impact on climate change, and Google announced its new policy supporting the Right to Repair movement. And Apple launched self-service repairs for iPhones two years ago.

Let's take a closer look at the 2024 CNET Survey results, and what you can do to repair or recycle your electronic devices responsibly.

No plan for recycling old devices

When it comes to getting rid of unused devices such as a smartphone, laptop, gaming console or camera, 48% of the survey respondents indicated that they have "no plan" and 27% said they "have some plan, but not a definite one." Just one quarter (25%) of respondents chose the answer, "Yes, I have a plan."

When you want to make a plan to get rid of old gadgets that are just piling up around the house, start by seeing if you can sell your used electronics for cash or store credit. You can also look for a local recycling center or place where you can mail them in for safe handling.

Read more: Our Gadgets Aren't Getting Recycled Enough. Here's How You Can Help

Popular ways of disposing of electronics

The survey found that when people no longer need their device or it's broken, more than one-third (35%) of respondents said that they tend to use a recycling service, while 30% said they simply store the gadget at home. 

Some (18%) admitted they just throw the device out, while other responses included trading them in for an exchange or upgrade (28%), passing them on to others (28%), selling them (23%), donating them to charity (22%) or using a repair or refurbishing service (13%).

Read more: Phone and Laptop Repair Is Going Mainstream, With a Big Push From iFixit

A desire for eco-friendly devices

People's willingness to pay more for environmentally friendly electronics varies quite a bit by generation. The survey found that almost one-third of Gen Z (32%) and millennial (also 32%) adults would be willing to spend more money in order to purchase a sustainable or eco-friendly version of an electronic device, but less than a quarter of Gen X (24%) and boomers (22%) would be down to do the same. 

Interest drops in each generation when it comes to shelling out more for "green" accessories: 28% of Gen Z and millennial consumers are willing, while just 20% of Gen X and 18% of boomer adults feel the same way. 

Until manufacturers make more strides in the eco-friendly area, it's a good idea to see if your gadgets can actually be repaired or given a second life, such as turning your iPhone or Android into a security camera, before giving up on them entirely. 

Read more: Spring-Clean Your Tech at Home: Where to Recycle Old Computers and Printers for Free

Methodology: The 2024 CNET Survey, conducted online between March 28 and 31 by YouGov Plc, included responses from 2,322 adults. According to YouGov, the figures have been weighted and are representative of all US adults (aged 18+).