How and Where to Recycle iPods and MP3 Players

An Overview on Recycling iPods and MP3 Players

A nearly indispensable part of many people’s lives today, iPods have become a symbol of modern life. The speed with which the models are upgraded and changes has created an enormous e-waste problem, but you can solve that by recycling your old iPod. Like mobile phones and computers, iPods and other MP3 players are essentially miniaturized electronics with all of the same toxic ingredients: brominated flame retardants (BFRs), mercury, cadmium, and lead. They also are made with steel, aluminum, glass, and plastic, all of which can be recovered for recycling.

The truth, though, is that most of us throw away our iPods after they break rather than recycling them. Sadly, even those upgrading from a functional, old model also trash their used machines without considering selling or recycling them. And there are a lot of them: more than 600,000 iPads are in circulation, more than 41 million iPhones,[1] and over 250 million iPods worldwide.[2] And though Apple is working to make their products greener, we still need to be good stewards of earthly resources, making recycling of your iPod and other Apple devices important.

How to recycle your iPod and other MP3 players

Whether your MP3 player has died and you need to replace it, or you’re looking for a way to unload your old model iPod for the latest version, these recycling tips should help:

  • Clear personal information: Before selling or donating any usable iPod or MP3 player, remove your personal information by following the manufacturer’s directions for this purpose.
  • Donate used MP3 players: Many organizations will gladly take your functional iPods and MP3 players, which they will likely turn around and sell in order to make money for their operations. Some will use them to give to the people they work with, however. Our list of recyclers and charities in the recyclers database will give you an idea of where to go to find suitable nonprofits.
  • Sell or trade in: In many cases, if you’re electronics are still working well, you can trade them in or sell them for cash to a recycler. These companies generally refurbish and then resell secondhand units. Reuse is always preferable to recycling as it extends the life of the materials, making more efficient use of the embodied energy of the device.
  • Recycle in the end: Broken and non-functional iPods and MP3 players should definitely be recycled to keep their materials in the materials cycle rather than in the landfill. Our recyclers database will give you a good list of organizations that accept these items for recycling. A quick and easy one for iPods is Apple. 

Sustainable and ethical iPod recyclers

As with any e-waste challenge, you’ll want to choose an ethical recycler that promotes safe and fair methods for recycling your electronic waste. The bulk of all e-waste is sent overseas where the components are dismantled (sometimes smashed apart) by people (often children) without proper personal protection making less than 25 cents an hour.[3] Without safe disposal regulations, these countries are often saddled with the toxic burden that comes with electronics recycling. To ensure that you’re not contributing to overseas pollution problems, look for recyclers that use responsible recycling methods.

  • The Basel Action Network (BAN) is an international environmental organization working to reduce toxic manufacturing and disposal. 
  • Alternatively, you can ask any potential recyclers a series of questions to determine whether they use safe and fair e-waste handling methods. Check out E-cycling Central’s list of questions.



1 Number Of iPhones Sold. (2010, February 2010). Retrieved June 30, 2010, from

2 Updates From Apple “Latest Creation” Special Event. (2010, January 27). Retrieved June 30, 2010, from World of Apple:

3 E-Waste & Recycling Laws - Protecting Taxpayers, our Environment and Public Health while Creating an Incentive for Greener Design. (n.d.). Retrieved June 29, 2010, from Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition:

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