From personal computers to smartphones, electronics are a part of our everyday lives. Unfortunately, the average lifespan for a lot of equipment is only a few years. When your electronics give out, what do you do with them? Some people simply throw them in the trash, even though most states have a specific ban against this. Because most electronics contain toxins that are harmful for the environment, recycling them is the safe, responsible thing to do. Here are some things to keep in mind before recycling your old equipment:

• Check to see if a non-profit organization in your area could use what you no longer need. For example, shelters for abused women often request old cell phone donations. The phones are refurbished after donation and provided to women trying to flee an abusive relationship. Shelter clients don't pay a fee for the recycled cell phones.

• Contact the manufacturer of the product to see if it offers a take-back program. If so, get the details about how to ship your product back, arrange for pick-up, or drop it off yourself.

• Many of the larger electronics store chains offer recycling programs, even if you didn't purchase the product there originally. Be sure to call or ask in person before hauling in your old computer or other type of personal electronics equipment.

To avoid giving other people access to your private data, be sure to clear the hard drive before recycling your computer. If you're not certain how to do this yourself, any computer repair shop could complete the task for you.