(Last Updated On: February 3, 2021)

Broken headphones don’t have to be a heap of plastic that sits in your drawer. Today, we take a look at what you can do with them.

You put your headphones on, go to play some music, and suddenly realize that there’s no sound coming from them. With a bit of panic, you decide to check out multiple online tutorials to try and fix things. But nothing works. Now, you’re left with an overwhelming sense of disappointment, and what seems like a useless lump of plastic.

Since headphones are made from materials that can be toxic to the environment, you can’t just throw them in the garbage. So, what are you supposed to do with them?

Well, those headphones can be put to more use than you might think. Today, we’re going to look at your options for disposing of (or repurposing) your broken headphones.

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Should You Just Throw Your Broken Headphones Out?

Broken headphones (From: Vera Aksionava)
Broken headphones (From: 123rf/Vera Aksionava)
Before you make a decision on what you want to do with your broken headphones, you might want to make an attempt at fixing them first. This could save you some money that would otherwise be spent on a brand new pair.

To be absolutely sure that your headphones are beyond repair, feel free to check out our different articles on DIY repairs on broken headphones:

Headphones are made up of many different components, and some of the materials that make up those components can be harmful to the environment if disposed of improperly. To make an informed decision, you first need to be aware of what your headphones are made of.

What are headphones made of?

Since headphones are made from a variety of materials, knowing what parts are recyclable and what parts aren’t is important in making a decision on what you want to do with them.

  • Headband: The headband piece of headphones is usually made from a hard PVC because it’s durable and offers some elasticity to accommodate different head sizes. However, PVC isn’t recyclable. If it’s in good enough condition to be reused, you can sell it for parts.
  • Earbuds: Earbuds can be made from silicone, latex, rubber, or leather. The padding on headphones is usually stuffed with foam to keep them comfortable when in use. Both foam and latex are materials that can’t be recycled.
  • Speakers: The speakers inside your headphones are made up of magnets (metal), copper coils, and cones (plastic). All of which can be recycled.
  • Cord: Headphone cords are made of copper or aluminum wire that’s insulated by rubber or cloth. All of these materials can be recycled.
  • Jack: The key connector between your device and your headphones, the jack consists of copper that’s surrounded by a casing made of metal or PVC. Everything aside from PVC casing can be recycled.

What to Do With Broken Headphones: Recycling

What to do with broken headphones (From: Pexels)
What to do with broken headphones (From: Pexels)

Recycling headphones isn’t always easy if you don’t know where to start. Luckily, there are those who can recycle them for you. Recycling is a great way to reduce waste, and there are multiple ways of going about it.

Manufacturers can often have recycling programs that allow you to dispose of your headphones properly. In most cases, all you need to do is either send them in, or drop them off at one of their participating locations.

As an example, JLab Audio offers a recycling program that allows you to send your broken headphones to them for proper disposal. They work directly with a recycling center that specializes in handling such electronics. They’ll even give you a 30% coupon for your next purchase from their site!

Reach out to your area’s recycling facility

Manufacturers aren’t the only ones that can assist in recycling your headphones. There are likely a few recycling facilities in your area that can take care of it for you.

Earth911 offers a great tool that allows you to search their database for recycling centers in your area based on the item and your ZIP code, making recycling even easier for you.

Try trading your old headphones in

Some stores offer trade-in programs, which are a good way to get some money back on your broken headphones.

Best Buy offers a trade-in program that allows you to trade-in your old headphones, in any working condition, for a Best Buy gift card. If you’re shopping around for a new pair, this can be a great way to shed some dollars off the price.

Feeling Crafty? Here Are DIY Projects You Can Do on Broken Headphones

You don’t always need to recycle old headphones. Instead, you can repurpose them. Broken headphones can be used for more than you might think, and can be made into a fun and crafty personal project.

Turn your old headphones into speakers

If you have a knack for technical DIY, you can use your broken headphones to make a stereo speaker. For this, you’ll need a pair of broken headphones, bluetooth speakers, a soldering iron, and if necessary, scissors.

  1. To start, remove the external casing of your headphones so that all you have remaining are the speakers, and the headphone circuit board.
    Deconstructed headphones. (From: Brandon Pyle Youtube).
    Deconstructed headphones. (From: Youtube/Brandon Pyle)
  2. Next, deconstruct the bluetooth speakers. This may involve removing some screws, and melting glue that holds them together.
    Deconstructing Bluetooth speakers. (From: Brandon Pyle Youtube).
    Deconstructing Bluetooth speakers. (From: Youtube/Brandon Pyle)
  3. Desolder the headphone speakers from the headphone circuit board.
    Desoldering headphone speakers. (From: Brandon Pyle Youtube).
    Desoldering headphone speakers. (From: Youtube/Brandon Pyle)
  4. Lastly, solder the speakers to the headphone circuit board.
    Soldering speakers to a headphone circuit board. (From: Brandon Pyle Youtube).
    Soldering speakers to a headphone circuit board. (From: Youtube/Brandon Pyle)
  5. Connect to your device and test the speakers. Click on this video to see how it sounds like.
    Finished speakers. (From: Brandon Pyle Youtube).
    Finished speakers. (From: Youtube/Brandon Pyle)

Make cute accessories out of broken headphones

The cable from your headphones can be used to make some nifty accessories, like bracelets. All you’ll need is the cable from your headphones, some small decorative rings, and a pair of pliers to crimp it off when you’re finished.

  1. Place three rings over the start of the cable, using your fingers to keep them in place.
    Adding rings to the cable. (From: Ecobrisa DIY YouTube)
    Adding rings to the cable. (From: YouTube/Ecobrisa DIY)
  2. Using the other end of the cable, bring it up and thread it through the first ring. Thread it all the way through to tighten.
    Threading the cable through a ring. (From: Ecobrisa DIY YouTube)
    Threading the cable through a ring. (From: YouTube/Ecobrisa DIY)
  3. Flatten the rings, on each side.
    Flattening the rings. (From: Ecobrisa DIY YouTube)
    Flattening the rings. (From: YouTube/Ecobrisa DIY)
  4. Place another ring on the same end of the cable from step two. Thread the same end through the second ring from the front.
    Threading the cable through another ring. (From: Ecobrisa DIY YouTube)
    Threading the cable through another ring. (From: YouTube/Ecobrisa DIY)
  5. Continue to add another ring, and thread it through as such.
    Adding more rings, and continuing to thread the cable. (From: Ecobrisa DIY YouTube)
    Adding more rings, and continuing to thread the cable. (From: YouTube/Ecobrisa DIY)
  6. Repeat this process until you’ve covered the majority of the cable. Finish by crimping a bracelet link, and adding a chain.
    Showing the finished product. (From: Ecobrisa DIY YouTube)
    Showing the finished product. (From: YouTube/Ecobrisa DIY)

Check out the video from Ecobrisa DIY for more crafty ideas.

DIY lavalier microphone

Lavalier microphones are the small collar attached microphones that are commonly used in interviews and presentations. They’re small, and help to capture sound without the need for a bulky microphone being in the way. For this, you’re going to need a pair of headphones, scissors, black electrical tape, a black sharpie, and a tie clip.

This is only possible if the in-line microphone on your headphones still works.
  1. Start by cutting off the headphone that’s not required. Cut at the base of the part where the headphones split.
    Cutting off the extra headphone. (From: theCinemaAce YouTube)
    Cutting off the extra headphone. (From: YouTube/theCinemaAce)
  2. Next, cut off the headphone wire after the microphone.
    Cutting off the headphone attached to the microphone. (From: theCinemaAce YouTube)
    Cutting off the headphone attached to the microphone. (From: YouTube/theCinemaAce)
  3. Color the microphone piece black with a sharpie. You can also color the splitter black if preferred.
    Coloring the microphone. (From: theCinemaAce YouTube)
    Coloring the microphone. (From: YouTube/theCinemaAce)
  4. Wrap the cord with black electrical tape from the microphone piece to just where the headphones split.
    Wrapping the cable with electrical tape. (From: theCinemaAce YouTube)
    Wrapping the cable with electrical tape. (From: YouTube/theCinemaAce)
  5. Lastly, use the black electrical tape to connect the tie clip to the microphone piece. Make sure that the tie clip ends where the microphone ends, so it’s somewhat flush.
    Attaching the tie clip to the microphone. (From: theCinemaAce YouTube)
    Attaching the tie clip to the microphone. (From: YouTube/theCinemaAce)

Want a video tutorial for this? Click here.

Chop up broken headphones for reserved parts

If parts of your headphones are still in usable connection, you can salvage them and keep them as replacement parts. If you have another pair of headphones that stop working, you can use these parts to mend them, saving you some money.

  • Headband: The headband part of headphones can easily snap if stretched too far. They can also start to split away from each other, exposing the internals of it. Replacement headbands are a great fix for this and can solve the issue instead of replacing the whole unit.
  • Earpads: Over time, your earpads can begin to split, exposing the foam inside. Replacement earpads keep your headphones looking good and feeling comfortable.
  • Plug: If one of the earpieces of your headphones stops working, it’s most likely because of a faulty headphone plug. Keeping a spare headphone jack on hand can save you the time of looking for a replacement one.
  • Cable: The wires inside your headphones cable can degrade over time through constant movement and pulling. So much so, that the wires begin to expose themselves. This makes the headphones prone to short circuits. Save yourself the time and effort of replacing them by keeping a spare cable on hand.
Any parts that are unusable should be recycled appropriately, as they won’t serve a purpose if they are broken.

Conclusion

Broken doesn’t always mean worthless, especially when it comes to headphones. Broken headphones can be recycled, salvaged, and even repurposed. Now that you’re aware of the options you have, you can make an informed decision on what you want to do with your broken headphones.

Have any of your headphones broken on you? If so, what did you do with them? Let us know in the comments below!