We all know that person who goes through a pair of earbuds every two weeks – maybe you’re that person. We get it, things happen. But the question remains – what do you do with your headphones once you can’t use them anymore?
Technically you can throw your headphones in the trash, but it’s not the best option for getting rid of them. Ideally, you would bring them to your local household hazardous waste facility or a retailer that recycles household electronics.
Lots of people just throw them in the trash, but it can feel sort of wasteful. After all, some headphones cost upwards of $100 – throwing them away feels like throwing cash away. You could get them repaired, but because of the tiny nature of most headphones in this day and age, they can sometimes get to the point where they are entirely irreparable.
Additionally, some types of headphones contain materials that are toxic and don’t break down easily, such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC). These materials can cause environmental harm and aren’t suitable for landfills.
Is there a better option? Of course! Electronics are very often made with components that are recyclable. Headphones usually contain speakers with magnets in them, as well as the casing that covers them. Depending on what type of headphones you had, there could also be wires and rubber that are recyclable. Here are some tips for recycling your old headphones.
It might seem a little backwards for these to be in an article about recycling headphones that are already broken, but taking care of your headphones is important for both your wallet and the recycler where they’ll eventually end up. Headphones that are too damaged might not be accepted by recycling services, so it’s important to keep them in the most decent condition that you can.
Headphone hygiene is pretty simple – make sure that they don’t get too warm or too cold, and ensure that they don’t get near things that could interfere with the magnets inside the speakers too often, like airport scanners. If your headphones have wires, make sure that you aren’t yanking the cord or getting it caught on things.
According to multiple sources, the best thing that you can do to extend the life of wired headphones is to wrap them up properly when you aren’t using them. Coiling them up and keeping them in a small bag or case – even a Ziploc bag will do – can make sure that they don’t get tangled or kinked.
It saves you the cost of replacing your headphones and all of the time that you would spend untangling them. If you’re not sure what the best way to wrap up your headphones is, there’s a guide here.
If you’re craft-inclined, you could do wrap the cables of wired earbuds to strengthen them and make them last longer. It’s also a great way to personalize them! There are hundreds of tutorials all over YouTube, just like this one.
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The first place that you should check to recycle your old headphones is the company that made them. Some companies will take your broken headphones off your hands and recycle the parts – so far, the only company that we’ve been able to verify doing this is Apple, but check with the company anyway.
There’s also a possibility that your headphones were under warranty, which will make replacing them a breeze.
The second place you can check to recycle your headphones are other electronic retailers. Some larger chains, such as Best Buy, collect used headphones for recycling, and will occasionally even let you trade them in if they still work. We encourage you to check with local specialist shops as well.
If you can’t find a local retailer to take your old headphones, you could always send them to JLab Audio. According to their website, they take any brand of headphones and other types of audio equipment and recycle them.
All you have to do is fill out a form and mail your old headphones to them. As a little bonus for helping out the planet, they offer a 30% off coupon for products from their site for those who choose to use their recycling program. Thinksound, a company based in New Hampshire, offers a similar program with a 15% coupon for using it. It’s best to see if there are any companies like this operating in your state to save on mailing costs.
Most states have some form of waste disposal program for electronics – you can use the locator service provided by Earth 911 to locate a disposal site near you if you don’t know of one already. Some companies that recycle bottles will also take other waste, including electronics. Make sure that your particular depot is willing to take headphones – some companies won’t take them because there are so few components inside them.
Once you’ve found a spot that will take them, maybe it’s a good time to make a day out of it and grab any other electronics in your house that you want to get rid of. It’s good for the planet and good for your home!
If you’re having trouble finding a place that will recycle your old headphones, consider repurposing them! There are plenty of interesting, quirky DIY crafts you can make with old headphones. One of the most popular uses for wired earphones is making bracelets with a technique similar to making friendship bracelets with thread, like these.
Some types of headphones can even be salvaged for parts to fix another pair – some of them are easy to separate into parts that can be used in future repairs. If, for instance, only one half of your pair of earbuds breaks, you could save the other half as spare parts for your next pair. If you’re not sure how to disassemble your earbuds, you could call a local repair shop and ask for some tips.