Want to recycle your cell phone or MP3 player? Here's how to make it pay

(ARA) - Better features, more speed, sexier style -- upgrading your personal electronics just doesn't have a downside. Or does it? What do you do with your old cell phone, laptop or PC monitor once you've chosen a newer, snazzier version?

You know you can't just throw these items in the trash since many contain potentially harmful chemicals and elements. And you may also fear that simply trashing your old PC or cell phone could put sensitive information - like your checking account number or contacts from your address book - at risk of falling into the wrong hands.

Often, set-aside personal electronics wind up cluttering a drawer or closet because we simply don't know what else to do with them.

Recycling is a better option than trashing or hoarding, and Americans have embraced the concept in nearly every other aspect of their lives. However, if you're unsure how to safely, cost-effectively recycle your personal electronics, consider these tips:

* From charities to recycling companies, it's easy to find someone to take your used electronics. Before you hand over your old cell, laptop or even MP3 player, be sure to ask what the recipient will do with the item.

"While it's wise to remove your personal information yourself before you turn in your used cell phone, PC or laptop, a reputable recycler will also ensure all information and programs are removed from an item before they do anything else with it," says Thomas Muhs, president and chief manager of Engaged Recycling, which operates the electronics recycling Web site MyBoneYard.com. The site has recycled more than 7,000 electronic items, including 4,300 cell phones, in the past year.

For example, MyBoneYard.com wipes all stored memory from the items it receives. The site then prepares the items for resale to those who can't afford to buy new, or dismantles the items to the base materials for proper recycling if the item is broken or obsolete. A tracking number allows you to follow your donation as the site processes and distributes it.

* Cell phones aren't the only electronic items you can recycle. Virtually any personal electronic device - from your computer monitor or laptop to your MP3 player or old video game console - can be recycled. You can use MyBoneYard.com to look up the device you want to recycle and find out if there's a use for it. If so, you may be eligible for a reward - in the form of a prepaid card or other compensation. In fact, the average compensation is about $24 per item.

* Children learn about recycling in school and in the home, and many kids are their household's biggest recycling advocates. With more teens, tweens and younger children carrying cell phones, smart phones, iPods and other personal electronics, it's never too early to start educating them about recycling these items. Look for online tools to help you communicate the message in a fun, kid-friendly way, like MyBoneYard's award-winning mascot, "Scrapster." The site's mascot and marketing campaign recently won two awards of distinction in the 15th Annual Communicator Awards.

Kids can connect with Scrapster, the recycling hound, who sports green fur to communicate his "green" message and a yellow bone to underscore the "golden" rewards of recycling, including a positive environmental impact, personal satisfaction and - in the case of items recycled through MyBoneYard.com - possibly real dollar rewards.

To learn more about recycling your personal electronics, visit www.myboneyard.com.

Courtesy of ARAcontent