Best way to build an ewaste collection for electronics parts?

So I have finally taken the plunge into the wonderful world of electronics, robotics, soldering, and tinkering! I’m enjoying it greatly. However, after bookmarking a thousand different build designs across Adafruit, hackaday, and YouTube I am becoming increasing aware of how little parts I have.

I want to build lots of tiny gadgets, inventions, and just fun little pointless tinkering projects to practice and learn with but each one needs a dozen little parts that end up costing way more than they are worth with shipping and/or having to buy in bulk.

Does anyone know a free or very cheap way to amass a beginner collection? I’m in search of basically anything - LEDs, little motors, LCD screens, transistors, sensors of every kind, resistors, capacitors, switches, fans, etc… whatever I can possibly use in small projects.

Salvaging ewaste from old laptops and junk electronics seems to be the go-to, but the problem is I’m not sure how to really go about that! My local thrift stores have all closed down and even then it’s hit or miss with pricing. Is there anywhere (preferably in the East Bay or BARTable with walking) I can find reliably cheap or free ewaste? Is there a good website to order from cheaper than Amazon or eBay?

Any help from experienced hackers, salvagers, and/or tinkerers would be super appreciated!

This doesn’t answer your question about e-waste directly, but if you’re looking to acquire parts on the cheap and you’re able to get there, Excess Solutions (née Halted / HSC Electronic Supply) in San Jose is one of the old standbys. Vast aisles of surplus parts for very cheap.

If you can’t get to the South Bay or you want something shipped to your door, I also highly recommend getting a bunch of component grab bags from Jameco in the Peninsula. It may not be as cheap (or as fun [?]) as rummaging through a dumpster and desoldering yourself a treasure, but you’re a lot more likely to get a useful parts bin at the end of the day.

Finally, it never hurts to spend some time searching on eBay. There are some pretty sweet-looking grab bags there. Resisting the urge to Buy It Now…

Great questions @Vale ! to answer:

  1. Noisebridge has an e waste section. Some members look down upon it but if you speak up and use it, it’s existence is more assured and supported :wink:

  2. I have lots of e waste parts at my apartment, incl. laptops. Happy to donate some to you if you can pickup in SF

  3. Ebay, Amazon, and other places sell electronics starter kits - good for beginners if you dont have the e waste you need

  4. ewasteSF and sudoroom in eastbay are also great sources for e-waste. Also as @pion mentioned, conponent grab bags at Jameco rule. Jameco is the bomb and our best local parts place!

  5. if you want to organize a few folks to attend, Im always down to teach a free class on harvesting e waste and tinkering / repair. I just dont wanna do the cat herding. but I love teaching!

and lastly, just a shot in the dark here, but I wanna encourage building meaningful projects at some point in time. Much of the diy community spends (imo wasted) energy on meaningless trinkets. The world and communities around us have many needs and problems that need solving. Why not make the world a better place and learn electrical engineering at the same time? :slight_smile: