8 Creative Ways to Recycle USB Flash Drives

As the capacity of USB flash drives grows with their popularity as storage devices, more gigs have become more affordable. This is great news except that some of our old drives may fall by the wayside and land in our nearest junk drawer. Maybe some of your pre-2005 Stone Age flash drives have become inoperable. Before you pitch these thumb drives, know that there is a chance to give them a second lease on life. Here’s some creative ways to recycle your USB flash drives:

  1. Make it into a jewelry piece. After all, flash drives use a lot of the same materials as your accessories—think alloyed metals, plastic and wood. Depending on the initial appearance of your flash drive, you could use only specific components of the device (like the chip) or thread the keyhole to create a pendant, necklace or earrings for a touch of geek chic.
  2. If your old USB still works, load it with some portable game apps. So you may not still rely on it to store your important work files or precious family memories, but it doesn’t mean that you can’t have a little fun with it. Recycle your USB drive by putting puzzle, strategy and old-school arcade games on it with a simple portable app download. What’s more is that they usually take up a minimal amount of space.
  3. For the avid gardener, USB flash drives can act as unique labels. Paint or write on them and stick them in the soil so it’s easier to identify your flowers, vegetables and herbs. On the other side of the drive, you could even scribble care instructions.
  4. Fashion used USB flash drives into Christmas ornaments. Paint them, cover them with fabric, bedazzle them, sprinkle glitter on them. They are the perfect foundation and ideal size to transform into a particular object or abstract holiday design. An ornament hook can be attached by drilling a hole, using ultra strength glue or via the flash drive’s built-in key loop.
  5. Transform them into a one-of-a-kind toy. A standard USB drive’s rectangular shape works as body to add a face and limbs to create little toy people or animals. You can bust out clay, paper, fabric and other accessories. It can give children’s playtime a technological twist!
  6. Build a wind chime. Since USB drives are made from all kinds of custom materials—wood, plastic, metal, bamboo—you can create your own distinctive sound by compiling them into a USB wind chime. Their vertical shapes, key loops and varied colors lend themselves to a quirky yet functional work of art.
  7. Donate flash drives to charity. Just because your flash drive doesn’t have enough gigs for you, doesn’t mean that others can’t use it. Older flash drives, no matter how small they are, can be used to bridge technology gaps and foster innovation in countries that are still developing.
  8. Recycle through an electronic waste recycling program. So maybe you don’t have the patience or creativity to refurbish your USB drives into a new work of art. Perhaps these solutions are too gimmicky for your taste. It doesn’t mean that you’re left to pitch it in the trash and subsequently landfill. Take it along with your other old, lifeless electronics to your nearest local recycle program. The EPA provides a comprehensive list of resources where you’re sure to find the right place that’s easy to access. Mailing, trade-ins and other methods are also available through these recycling options. Think if everyone used this for just one thumb drive, it could make a huge difference.

Put your creative hat on! How would you recycle your old USB flash drives?