12/22/2009 12:20 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Buying a New Computer this Holiday Season? Responsibly Recycle Old Electronics for Free

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas morning will have a distinct high-tech edge to it this year. Yes, it's true that retail sales, as predicted by many analysts, have been fairly weak. But there have been some bright spots for struggling retailers. Deep discounts have meant that flat-panel televisions have been big sellers the past couple weeks, for instance. And that has helped lead to a rather unusual occurrence: for the first time in a long time, toys have had to share their perch as the holiday season's big-ticket items, with electronics.

It won't be just TVs, though, that will be taking up space this holiday season. In particular, consumers seem to be quite fond of computers this year. One market research firm, NPD Group, recently reported that the number of computers sold during the week following Black Friday was up 63 percent from last year. There are probably a couple of reasons for that huge jump in computer sales. First, prices are way down. And as we all know, consumers like it when they see a holiday bargain, especially during these tough economic times. Also, manufacturers such as Apple and Microsoft have been rolling out some new operating systems this fall, and that certainly hasn't hurt sales figures.

But, you know, this big jump in computer sales has gotten me thinking. Specifically, I'm concerned that people won't know what to do with their old computers after they unwrap the new ones this holiday season. I mean, if you get another necktie during this season of giving, you can simply hang it on the backside of the tie rack, in between the other neckties you only bring out for, um, special occasions. And when you receive Aunt Beatrice's holiday fruitcake again this year, you know that you can easily "regift" it to kind, old Mr. Smith who doesn't have anybody to bake him holiday treats. He'll actually enjoy the fruitcake because it reminds him of the kind his grandmother used to make. He will again commend you on your fine baking skills, and all will be good.

It's this regifting idea that makes me feel better about all of these computer purchases this year. No, you won't really hand over your unwrapped, brand-new computer to somebody else. But you can, in fact, turn over your old computer to be recycled and reused much like Aunt Beatrice's holiday fruitcake. And it's nearly as easy to do.

First, go to to locate your nearest computer donation center. There are now 1,924 locations around the country, thanks to a partnership between Goodwill Industries® and Dell. Second, remove all the data from your hard drive. If you want to completely erase the hard drive and don't know how to do that, there are several free services available online. Third, drop off your unwanted computer at no charge, and get a tax receipt. You'll want to check with your tax advisor about whether you can deduct the value of the computer for tax purposes.

So far, the Goodwill-Dell partnership, known as ReConnect, has diverted more than 96 million pounds of electronic waste from our nation's landfills. In addition, it has created more than 250 "green jobs" for Goodwill employees managing the recycling program. And just so you know, all donated computer equipment goes through testing and certification before it is distributed. In addition, any revenues from the value of the donated computers go to fund Goodwill's job training programs, employment placement services and community-based programs. So you'll also be helping to provide much-needed job skills to others in your community.

That's it! Think of it as the green, high-tech, 21st century version of regifting. You get rid of an unwanted item, you give another person something they can use, you help to provide career training to those who need it, and you won't be contributing to the overcrowding of landfills. Sounds like a good way to spread the joy this holiday season. Now, if only Aunt Beatrice comes through with that fruitcake for Mr. Smith.