SPECIAL REPORT: Tech disposal 101 - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

SPECIAL REPORT: Tech disposal 101

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As fancy new technology hits the market every day, older phones and computers quickly become obsolete. But getting rid of those gadgets isn't as simple as tossing them in the trash. Between environmental and personal data concerns, there is a lot to keep in mind.

Electronics fresh off the assembly line fill the aisles of electronics stores like Best Buy.

"It's amazing what they come up with. These big TVs versus these little tiny ones these days," said Wes McCrory of Wausau.

The turnover is creating stock piles of outdated electronics.

"People run into space issues where they've been holding onto it for so long," said Shawn Brunke, assistant store manager at Best Buy in Rib Mountain.

The possibilities for new gadgets are endless.

"Everybody wants the latest and greatest," said Brunke.

But the options are more limited when it comes to getting rid of old electronics.

"Electronics are banned from landfills," said Meleesa Johnson, director of solid waste management for Marathon County.

At the Marathon County landfill in Ringle, leaders had to develop special processes for handling electronics like cell phone and computers.

"When we realized people's personal information was being stolen from other locations, we took the extra step, the extra investment to keep it locked away," said Johnson. "We make sure it's locked away until it's picked up for certified destruction."

Certified destruction is the key.

"You can't guarantee that your critical personal information that might be left on your electronics is managed in a way that is secure so we work with certified recyclers that guarantee destruction of personal information," said Johnson.

That comes with a fee. Recycling TVs through the landfill can cost anywhere between $10-15 and phones and computers cost $5-10.

Jim Sell of Wausau was looking for a cheaper option.

"It was free. Better than throwing them in a ditch some place like they did 50 years ago," said Sell.

Keeping costs and the environment in mind, he picked Best Buy.

"Very simple, just pull up to the front of the store, they come out with a cart and haul it away," said Sell.

It's a popular strategy.

"Best Buy has recieved over 1 billion pounds of recycling as of September and our goal is to hit another 2 billion by the year 2020," said store manager Shawn Brunke.

Leaders with the electronics giant said the company is committed to being part of the solution to the growing amount of waste on the planet. The company itself can also benefit from collecting tossed out technology for free.

"All those products that come in are either refurbished, redistribted, or basically stripped for parts," said Brunke.

Plus, many customers opt to trade in technology trash for new treasures.

"I dropped five off, pick one up," said Jim Sell of Wausau.

"You don't have to purchase anything for us to recycle. You can bring in a television, old phone, wherever it was purchased and we will recycle it for you, in hopes, that you will buy something from us in the future," said Brunke.

Recycling helps the environment. But can it put your personal data in harms way?

"When that is received at our recylcying center, there is a team of people that pull hard drives and destroy data so nothing is ever compromised when it comes to hard drives or phone data," said Brunke.

Wes McCrory took care of that himself.

"Just erased everything that was in it and brought it out," said McCrory.

Computer gurus that Newsline 9 spoke with said that should be enough.

"If you erase and format your drive, for all practical purposes, it's gone," said Brian Jojade, CEO of Happy Mac in Wausau. "It would take a lot of time and some very specific tools to get the data off and the average person's data is not worth that."

Another option, according to some tech experts, is physically destroying the piece of technology.

"Hit it with a hammer. Take out some stress on it. Have some fun," said Jojade.

From the landfill to the land of electronics, leaders agree getting the most out of these electronics is the priority. But they admit it does take a little extra work to do tech disposal the right way.

Here is a list of places around Wausau that accept old electronics:

Best Buy - Three per household per day, no fee

Marathon County Landfill in Ringle - Fee per item

Happy Mac - Accepts computers for free, with purchase

Good News Project, Wausau - Fee per pound

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