The Drawer of Many Cords

By Carol Baroudi
Aug 19, 2016 3:00 PM ET

For a long time, I’ve wanted to teach a course in popular literature exploring how social change is reflected in book series. When prolific authors’ works span years, even decades, you can see how social issues emerge and attitudes change. Fewer protagonists smoke. Minorities take prominent positive roles. For more than a decade, climate change has insinuated itself into the works of best-selling authors. And now there’s e-waste.

I first encountered e-waste as a significant theme in Leonard Rosen’s great book The Tenth Witness. Now, in Harlan Coben’s newest offering, Fool Me Once, I find:

“Back at the house, Maya … opened what she referred to as the Drawer of Many Cords. Like most people she knew, Maya never threw out a power cord. The drawer was stuffed past capacity, like a snake-in-a-can, with dozens, maybe hundreds – heck, there was probably a cord that could work a Betamax …”

I never owned a Betamax, but the number of unused cords, remotes, mice and keyboards that I really have no use for grows. I know that Maya and I are not alone. What’s important to remember about these kinds of electronic accessories is that they are not data bearing. If you donate your power cords, you needn’t sit up at night wondering whether they still contain personal data. You can, in good conscience, drop them off at You should not throw them in the trash. You can try listing them on or under “free stuff.” And the next time anything with a cord enters your house, label the cord so that when you’re ready to part with its device, you can make sure that the cord goes with it.

Consumers are not alone in growing their accumulation of cables and cords. I’ve heard IT procurement folks say they’ve asked their vendors to please not send another cable with their replacement servers – but their pleas seemingly go unheeded. Ironically, one of the things that cripples the resale value of many a used computer is the absence of its power cord. It’s one area where we at Arrow’s Value Recovery business help companies tighten their processes and increase their return. Somehow we all have to get past the “I may need this someday” mindset so that technology that’s still useful truly gets used.

If you know of other good outlets for cables and cords, drop me a note at

Carol Baroudi works for Arrow’s Value Recovery business promoting sustainability awareness and action. She is the lead author of Green IT For Dummies. Her particular focus is on electronics in the Circular Economy, with an emphasis on the IT asset disposition stage, e-waste and everything connected. Follow her on Twitter at @carol_baroudi and connect with her on LinkedIn at