The importance of recycling computers goes well beyond data security.

computer-recycling.jpg With the continuous and incredibly fast evolution of technology, people are now growing tired of their computers at a very frequent rate. What is cutting edge at this moment is certain to be obsolete in a few years. Having the same computer for several years is no longer realistic for today’s fast-paced lifestyles that are filled with the consistent desire for the latest innovative technology. The low price associated with replacing a computer for the latest and greatest version seems enticing for just about everyone, but discarded computers, whether outdated or broken, can pose serious environmental problems. With the constant enhancements made in computer technology, there is no better time to educate yourself on the importance and process of properly recycling your e-waste. Discarding your computer into a trash bin can be threatening to your safety and privacy, as well as your health and the environment. The computer recycling process consists of the dismantling and refurbishment of an old computer’s parts into new, usable parts. Some computers are fixed, cleaned and resold, while others are parts harvested for metal, glass, plastic and other materials to be recycled into new products.

The importance of recycling computers

Your computer holds sensitive information and data. Pictures, videos, Web history, personal documents and personal information are just some of the information held on each device. Even after putting your items into your computer’s recycling bin on the computer (ironic, huh?), it still may not be completely wiped clean of confidential information. This is also a possible reason as to why you have decided to either hoard your old computers or carelessly toss them out. However, trashing a computer is one of the worst options that you can do for your own safety and privacy. Anyone who gets ahold of your device may still be able to access your information. But, when properly recycling your e-waste, everything is thoroughly stripped in order to separate the recyclable materials in the device. As a result, your information is no longer vulnerable. Still, it is highly recommended to follow the procedures of properly cleaning your hard drive prior to recycling your computer to ensure your safety. The importance of recycling computers goes well beyond data security. The equipment contains heavy metals, toxic substances and hazardous waste that can be extremely dangerous when thrown out with household trash. Computers are non-biodegradable items, so recycling your computer reduces landfill space while decreasing toxic emissions. Recycling your computer also gives someone else the option to purchase a used computer or used computer parts at affordable prices. So, conserve the energy used in manufacturing plants and do your part for the environment.

Recyclable materials in computers

Discarded computer equipment encompasses monitors, printers, hard drives and circuit boards. These items contain significant amounts of recyclable materials that will remain hazardous in landfills for years if not recycled. The glass monitor, keyboard, plastic or aluminum casing, cables, CD-ROM drive, ray tube, power cord, circuit board, batteries and printer cartridges are all recyclable computer materials. There is only approximately 2% of a computer that cannot be recycled. This portion is separated at the time that the computer enters the recycling facility and is discarded of properly.

The history of computer recycling

From the computer’s early days until approximately 15 years ago, recycling these devices was not even a thought. The importance of keeping the toxic and hazardous products from landfills was unknown, and with the increased economic concerns in recent years, “e-waste” was dinged as a term, with manufacturers such as Dell implementing programs that allowed their customers to send in their old computers to be recycled. Yet, e-waste recycling still is not thoroughly practiced, as the procedure of sending a computer off is often deemed to be too difficult or tedious. Still, over the past five years, computer-recycling awareness has grown and many local facilities now offer e-waste recycling services, as well as many churches, schools and community buildings that collect computers and drop them off for you at e-waste facilities. Unfortunately, the majority of the e-waste collected in the past was exported to developing countries as an inexpensive, labor-intensive recycling and disposal option. As a result, e-waste has been improperly disposed of overseas, dramatically increasing pollution and autoimmune disorders in areas such as Africa, Asia and South America.

The computer recycling process

Today, more e-waste is recycled domestically in many cities across the country to ensure damage is not being placed on developing countries. Once the computers have arrived at the facilities to be recycled, the triage process begins, which identifies the various types of equipment and determines the condition and age of each part. Relevant information is then recorded for disposition reports and the computer is properly cataloged. Once completed, the physical processing begins and data destruction is often performed. Asset tags are removed and any useful parts are refurbished and resold. Those parts of the computer that have next to no value are sent through a de-manufacturing process that allows the useful parts to be harvested and other materials, such as the metals, plastic, glass and circuit boards, to be separated. These parts are then sent to a smelter that shreds the parts into small pieces to be melted down in order to be recycled for future use. Since computer recycling has been made more widely available, thousands of tons of lead have been recovered, and millions of pounds of fossil fuels have been spared. Ensure our future is green and recycle your computers. To find a computer recycling location near you, visit our recycling location finder.