How To Recycle Headphones

We all want to do better for the planet, right? Well, of course, we do and that’s why we should recycle our old headphones, right?

Well, hang on a second, because before we show you how to recycle headphones we’ve got a few things that you can do that are even kinder to Mother Earth and, potentially, to your wallet too.

If Your Old Headphones Still Work

Not every pair of headphones needs to be replaced in the first place.

What if it’s just a case of worn out ear cups or a battery that has long since died but you still get sound when you plug a cable in directly?

We talk here about the potential lifespan of headphones but if we exclude wireless earbuds from this conversation that lifespan can be a decade (or even longer).


Fix Your Own Headphones

So, begin by fixing them if you can.

You can easily replace crumbling ear pads by sourcing replacements from the manufacturer.

It’s a tougher job but if the headband is broken, that can be fixed or replaced too.

And while it’s a little fiddly, there’s no good reason that you can replace any frayed or broken wires in a headphone set.

We’d also note that sometimes, headphones just look a bit filthy and you can easily find tutorials online to help you clean them up so that they look new again.


Sell, Trade Or Donate Them

Just because you no longer want your cans, it doesn’t mean that nobody does and if they are in good working order, you could get some cash back from them to help pay for the next pair.

How To Recycle Headphones

You’ll find that plenty of people buy and sell headphones on eBay, Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, and Bunz, for example. Even some online thrift stores may stock headphones.

It doesn’t take a lot of effort to list something for sale in this Internet era but if you don’t fancy going through the hassle – you can donate headphones too. 

While you don’t get any money from this, you will feel good about it and local thrift stores or even Freecycle can be ideal for getting rid of them.


Take Advantage Of Trade-In/Take-Back Programs For Headphones

Assuming that you’re going to buy another pair of headphones, you may find that you can get a trade-in or take-back (which involves getting a discount or a voucher for other products). 

Some common programs include:

  • Amazon. They take Echo, Apple, Beats, Bose, JBL, Sonos and Sony products whether they work or not. They offer a gift card as well as a discount on any Echo product. The value of the gift card depends on the condition of the product.
  • Apple. Apple takes back any of their products for recycling. However, though they will give you a free shipping label – they won’t give you any cash back.
  • Best Buy. Best Buy takes back most brands (similar to Amazon) and they offer gift cards in return of up to $60.
  • JLab. Any headphones, earbuds or speakers can be returned and they give you a 30% off coupon for your next purchase of a similar item. You have to pay for postage though.
  • Podswap. You can donate your old headphones and they will offer you some refurbished AirPods for a bit of a discount.

If Your Old Headphones Are Broken

OK, so your headphones are broken. Now, it’s time to recycle them because your headphones are made up of materials which still have commercial value.

The leather in the ear cups, the metals and magnets used in their construction, and possibly the plastic holding everything together.

The key here is to use a professional recycling agency which will not just reuse the materials of value but also get rid of anything that isn’t of value in a sensible manner.

In the USA, we can recommend Earth911, which is super easy to use, enter what you want to recycle and your ZIP code and they put you in touch with a local recycler.

how to fix headphones

In North America as a whole (including Mexico), you can also use the BestBuy recycling program, they don’t accept absolutely everything but they do take a lot of stuff.

And in Canada, Recycle My Electronics, which isn’t quite as user friendly, provides a list of facilities by province for almost all kinds of electronics and other items that can be recycled.


Final Notes

It’s always better to reuse than to recycle and if your headphones still work, they should be reused, sold or donated. 

But if they don’t, then it’s fine to recycle and do your bit for the planet that way. 

If you need new headphones after recycling yours why not check out these sweet field recording headphones or these funky bone conduction headphones

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