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Survey considers most Americans ‘gadget hoarders’

FARGO – Richard Holmes has a Betamax VCR and an RCA video disk player. He bought them each for about $400 in the early 1980s.

“I just couldn’t stop myself from blowing more money,” the Fargo man said.

Both devices became obsolete quickly, and he hasn’t used either in more than 20 years. But Holmes has no intention of getting rid of the devices.

“My children will be inheriting them, and they won’t know what they are,” he said.

Holmes said he also has cellphones going back 10 years.

“I’m an electronic hoarder,” he said. “If it’s made of transistors and silicone, I’ve got to have it and keep it forever.”

It turns out Holmes, in his eclectic collecting, is not alone.

Many Americans – 68 percent according to a recent survey – keep old gadgets for two or more years without using the devices.

Used electronics marketplace, which surveyed 1,000 Americans, calls it “gadget hoarding” and says 70 percent of Americans have multiple old gadgets at home they haven’t used in the past three months.

Nik Raman, uSell’s COO and co-founder, said it’s usually a combination of guilt and laziness that leads to gadget hoarding.

“People feel guilty throwing them away because they had value once and there are a lot of environmental effects of dropping them into the landfill,” he said. “And people don’t really want to go through the effort of a Craigslist or eBay listing.”

The problem with keeping devices they no longer use, Raman said, is people are sitting on value.

“That value basically deteriorates in your drawers,” he said. “It’s holding on to a depreciable asset and doing nothing with it.”

The company takes smartphones, tablets, MP3 players and plans to eventually expand.

For larger devices, or if you don’t want to sell your gadgets, Best Buy accepts most electronics and large appliances, with a few exceptions, and will take them at no charge to be recycled.

Technology is the fastest-growing waste stream on the planet, and Best Buy collects more than 400 pounds of product for recycling every minute the stores are open, the company stated on its website.

The company takes the devices at recycling kiosks inside the stores’ front doors and at the customer service counter. Customers are responsible for removing data.

A sales specialist with Best Buy in Fargo (who said she could not give her name due to company policy) said locally it’s a very popular program and they receive a lot of television sets, computer monitors and computer towers every day.

Electronic equipment and appliances contain a variety of hazardous materials, such as lead, chromium, mercury, cadmium and polychlorinated biphenyls, according to Clay County (Minn.) Planning and Environmental Programs.

Clay County residents can drop off computers and TVs at a collection container at the Clay County Landfill. Any devices containing a Cathode Ray Tube are not allowed to be disposed in the landfill. TVs and computer monitors contain such tubes.

Fargo’s Household Hazardous Waste Facility also takes electronics to be recycled at an annual electronics recycling event, held the Saturday before Cleanup Week, and throughout the year.

During last year’s recycling event, residents of Fargo, West Fargo and rural Cass County dropped off 63 tons of electronics, said Terry Ludlum, Fargo Solid Waste director.

The facility also has a reuse room, so if a TV, for example, still works, anyone can take it.

“People can come out and get everything from bug spray to computers and TVs at no charge,” Ludlum said.

The amount of electronics being dropped off, he said, has been increasing.

Tracy Frank

Tracy Frank is a SheSays, Variety, and Farmer's Forum reporter for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead. Have a comment to share about a story? Letters to the editor should include author’s name, address and phone number. Generally, letters should be no longer than 250 words. All letters are subject to editing. Send to

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