Wednesday, August 26, 2009

guest article: Computer Recycling

-- Computer Recycling --

*Article Source:

As more people become aware of the need to conserve natural resources and keep our environment clean, recycling old computers has become incredibly popular. But what is computer recycling, exactly? Why is it so important? And can one take a computer to be recycled?

What is Computer Recycling?
Computer recycling is the process of extracting valuable secondary raw materials from obsolete computers. The EPA estimates that 30 to 40 million personal computers are ready for recycling each year. But because of the source material used to make them, simply throwing away your old computer can be dangerous and harmful to the environment. Depending on their age, computers can contain such toxic materials as lead, mercury, cadmium, chromium, and radioactive isotopes. They also contain valuable materials worth recovering, such as gold, tin, aluminum, iron, silicon, copper, and an array of different plastics.

Why Recycle Computers?
It is estimated that an average computer monitor may hold more than 6% lead by weight. When you discard a computer monitor or circuit board, most of that lead leeches into groundwater, or pollutes surrounding air if the monitor is incinerated. Some companies ship their outdated computer monitors and circuit boards to developing nations that have weak environmental protection regulations.

This only moves the problem. It doesn't fix it.

Computer recycling and repair companies are the only sure way to know that your old monitor or circuit board will be properly taken care of.

Where do I Recycle Computers?
Consumer recycling is a popular option for recycling computers. Consumer recycling involves returns machines to their manufacturers, donates them to charitable organizations, or sends the separated components to environmentally responsible recyclers. There are a number of national and local organizations that help with consumer recycling. The Computer TakeBack Campaign and the Electronic TakeBack Coalition are both decentralized coalitions of organizations dedicated to minimizing so-called "e-waste" by helping people properly dispose of their old computers.

Many organizations also help connect computer donations with charitable organizations that may use them. The Donate Hardware list on the TechSoup website is a great resource for finding nonprofit and school-based recyclers in your area. They also list commercial recyclers, which are better suited for broken computers or models over five years old.

Of course, some computer companies offer take-back programs. These programs allow you to send your outdated computer back to the manufacturer where it will be repaired, refurbished, or properly disposed of. Hewlett-Packard is one company that offers such a service. To enhance their take-back program, HP also often offers a coupon good towards the purchase of a new computer or computer components. Many companies offer such benefits as a way to encourage computer recycling instead of dumping.

The best way to be sure if a nonprofit or commercial recycling organization is properly disposing of e-waste is to make sure they have signed the Basel Action Network (BAN) pledge. Among other things, the BAN pledge states that companies or charitable organizations will not allow hazardous waste to be sent to landfills, incinerators, prisons, or developing countries. These companies and organizations also pledge to support forward-thinking toxic-use reduction programs and legislation.

Luckily, getting rid of that older model doesn't mean you have to negatively impact the environment. Look for the computer recycling program nearest you and feel good knowing you did your part to help eliminate e-waste.

~Ben Nystrom, 2009

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1 comment:

  1. Great little article! I write for a blog on Computer recycling and Green Tech. This topic is so important and still so many people don't know much about it.

    I would add that it is important to check even computer "recycling" companies. Don't be afraid to ask hard questions about where your PC will go. Many will try to refurbish all or part of it--this is actually the most environmentally sound thing to do as most an electronics waste comes from the creation of the device. Please make sure they don't ship broken, or even "to be repaired" devices over seas.

    Almost always these items end up poisoning people and environments in the places least able to take care of the problem.

    For more facts check out:


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