The beautiful thing about disposing of your old electronics is that doing the right thing gives you more than a rosy feeling; it can actually pay you. The trick is to hand off your own gear immediately, while it still has some value.

For example, suppose you had a 32-gigabyte AT&T iPhone at the time the Verizon iPhone 4 came out. You could have sold it to online buy-back site for $430, which would have easily covered the AT&T fee for terminating your contract early. Similarly, buyback sites NextWorth and were offering $155 for a year-old iPhone 3GS, or $145 for a working BlackBerry Bold 9700.

For older, less valuable gear, just remember: “Best Buy, Radio Shack, or Target.” These chains accept your old electronic junk, either in-store or by mail. Here are the details on the Best Buy program, Radio Shack’s program, and Target’s. They do more than accept your junk—they actually pay you for it, in the form of a gift card or future-purchase discount.

The Web is filled with other ways to get rid of your aging gear and feel good doing it. Three examples:

  • Like a CraigsList for freebies. List the stuff you don’t want anymore; interested parties come by your place to take it off your hands.
  • Turns in used cellphones to, which “pays” the organization with calling cards that soldiers overseas can use to call their families.
  • Provides old phones for emergency use by, for example, domestic-violence victims.

Unloading your old gadgets through any of these outlets is infinitely better than the default graveyard for them: the back of your gadget drawer.