Salvaging usable parts from older electronics is a good way to save money and keep electronics out of the landfill, at least for a little while. Before you toss your old electronic items and their parts in the trash, look at them with a critical eye. Determine if any of the interior parts can be useful in other tech projects, use as much of the tech item as you can, then toss the rest.
Most of what is inside your electronics is not so easy to reuse. And honestly, they also aren’t the most novice-friendly projects. There are a number of free repair guide websites online that can properly walk you through the process of disassembling your old devices. You want to start with a known, good and mostly functional device before heading into any repurposing project.
Much like a recipe each project can be tweaked to fit your individual needs and skill level. If you opt for the intermediate or expert level routes, with a little help from a tech-inclined buddy you may find a weekend well spent tinkering with a busted device.
Check out these eight ways that you can re-use old device parts:
1. Turn old lithium ion batteries into a power bank for your smartphone or mobile device. Proceed with extreme caution when reusing batteries because they pose a risk of electric shock or explosion.
2. Fit working speakers into unusual objects to create one-of-a-kind audio systems: try inserting tiny speaker components into tennis balls, repurposed books, and even picture frames. Hey, even a potato chip can could be a fun!
3. Microphone components make cool industrial-meets-tech-meets-steampunk jewelry. Their wires and metal pieces can also be used in other applications. This tutorial uses computer parts but the same could hold true for your mobile phone components.
4. You can repurpose a vintage lamp or create distinctive night lights using LED lights salvaged from old electronics.
5. Vibe motors can be used to create vibrating pillows or small cushions for other achy body parts. They can prove helpful in relieving the stress of carpal tunnel syndrome caused by constant keyboard use.
6. Make a DIY digital picture frame or home security system display from the screen of a broken cell phone or tablet. You’ll need to pick up a controller for MIPI DSI-to-HDMI adapting. Warning, this is not a novice project.
7. Reuse old haptic motors from game controllers to make a vibrating motor. That motor could then be used in a small propelled boat, a personal fan, or use it to power the propellers of a drone.
8. Old printed circuit boards (PBC’s) can be fashioned into creative craft projects such as mouse pads, tape dispensers and guitar picks. Although rare, older chips can also be cut down, desoldered and sanded to make breakout boards and given a new life in other projects.
Additionally, you can use any working cell phone to make emergency calls to 911 -- even if you don’t have a calling plan set up. Consider donating working phones to shelters or other non-profit organizations or charge one up and keep it in your glove compartment for personal emergencies.
Thumbnail by Annie Shao and Rachel McConnell for Make Magazine.