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Make money from your old, discarded electronics

It seems like a new, improved phone, computer or television comes out every few months, and an MIT study found that it translates to more than 258 million pieces of tech waste a year.

Consumer expert Amy Davis suggests several ways that you can toss out old technology legally and make money doing it.

A lot of technology is considered hazardous under federal law, so you can't just throw it in the trash. You can check the National Center for Electronics Recycling to find a local business that will take old gadgets off your hands.

By typing in a ZIP code, Davis found 59 places around Houston that let you drop off your old tech for free, including Best Buy, Staples stores and Salvation Army Thrift stores. But you might want to find out if your electronics are worth anything first. Websites like www.gazelle.com and www.glyde.com show that even old iPhone4s can sell for $52.

Trading in old tech can be much simpler. Best Buy estimates trade-in values, like a 64-gig iPad Mini at $67. Apple has a re-use and recycle program in which it offers credit for its old devices. Even Radio Shack, Target and Amazon will give you gift cards for trading in tablets, phones, video games, cameras and books.

One of the simplest solutions is using an Eco-ATM. There are 900 locations around the country where you can deposit old devices and immediately get cash in return, just like a regular ATM.

Always make sure you rid your device of all personal information before you sell or trade. Simply deleting files doesn't guarantee that your information is gone. The only way to guarantee that on computers is to wipe the hard drive clean or have it physically destroyed by a professional company. For cellphones and tablets, always make sure you restore them to factory settings and remove any SD cards.