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How to Recycle Old Computers
June 19, 2018
Sometimes it feels like the latest piece of technology becomes obsolete the second you take it out of the box. And every time we do make an upgrade, it leaves many of us with old laptops that collect dust. Don’t forget about that mobile phone container that holds both smart and “dumb” devices and fills up more with each contract renewal.
Like bags of batteries and Styrofoam waste, it’s no surprise most people don’t know where you can recycle old computers, broken printers, and outdated PC monitors.
Are you looking to get rid of an old computer - or several? Here is the why, where, and how of recycling e-waste.
Why computer recycling matters
Electronic disposal isn’t just another chore on your to-do list; it’s a vital way to keep toxic waste out of our landfills and conserve precious natural resources.
According to the nonprofit organization Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition, roughly 70 percent of heavy metals in US landfills come from our electronics, despite the fact that e-waste only accounts for about 2 percent of our total refuse.
These heavy metals can end up in our air, soil, and water supply, which then causes potential health issues including inflammation, DNA damage, and even cancer.
And given that it’s a relatively new development, researchers don’t yet know the full scope of what failing to recycle our old computers can do to our bodies, wildlife, and planet's ecosystem as a whole.
What’s the solution?
Luckily, there are a few ways to solve the e-waste problem.
If you’re getting rid of working computers in favor of something newer and faster, donating is probably your best option. Devices that are in relatively good shape can be refurbished and given a second lease on life. Also, if you donate to a charitable organization, you can even receive a tax deduction for your unwanted electronics.
While donating is the “greenest” option, recycling is the next best thing. Vendors like Office Depot, Best Buy, and HP® accept old computers for recycling in addition to other items such as printers and printer cartridges, smartphones, and tablets.
Even the most dated and obsolete computer can contain a number of valuable materials including plastics, copper, gold, and silver, among others.
Where can you recycle old computers?
There are a number of organizations that provide electronics recycling.
If you’re not sure where to find computer or laptop recycling in your area, you can start your search by Googling the phrase “electronic recycling near me.”
You’ll find that many organizations, including local churches, schools, and Scout troops host neighborhood events where you can drop off your box of old equipment and call it a day. Not only that, but you can even get a tax deduction in many cases.
If your neighborhood isn’t hosting any e-waste events anytime soon, there are a few other options you can explore.
Take a trip to a recycling center
It’s time to gather all of your old batteries and whatever else you’ve been setting aside instead of putting it in the trash bin as a favor to mother nature.
The following sites can help you find where you can recycle old computers, monitors and other hardware:
- Earth911: This free and convenient online directory lists thousands of donation sites and recycling centers across North America that accept a full range of electronics including desktops, laptops, tablets, phones, and printers. Search by city, state, and zip code and Earth911 will show you where you can send or drop off e-waste.
- Check with local retailers: Many retail stores that sell electronics like Best Buy provide customers with ways to recycle their older electronics.
HP® also allows you to trade in old computer equipment (any brand) for cash or credit.
Donate your goods
Gently used computers and equipment don’t need to be dismantled in order to make a difference.
There are plenty of nonprofits out there that provide technology to people and organizations in need. Any smaller items that are still in working order can be dropped off at your local Salvation Army or Goodwill. However, there are other charities that put your old equipment to more specific use.
Here are some better alternatives to simply throwing away your old tech:
- World Computer Exchange: This organization donates computers, funds, and time to a range of global nonprofits, supporting schools and libraries in need. The World Computer Exchange aims to help those in developing countries improve tech literacy, education, and overall Internet savvy. You can donate computers to a chapter near you or mail in your donation.
- TechSoup: A nonprofit organization offering free and affordable software, computers, and other equipment to tax-exempt nonprofits, TechSoup does a lot of work with larger businesses. Individuals can donate equipment, too. Donated computers are repaired and then sent to aid organizations and nonprofits around the world.
- Computers with Causes: This organization repairs, refurbishes, and prepares donated computers for families and educational organizations in need across the U.S. In addition to accepting computers, they will take used printers, gaming consoles, tablets, and business servers.
Security comes first
If you’re getting rid of a desktop, laptop, or tablet, data security should be of utmost concern. Before you find a new home for your old computer equipment, you’ll want to make sure you’ve erased all of your personal information and transferred files to another safe location.
Performing a data sweep or a factory reset will keep your data out of the hands of the bulk of the population, but tech-savvy bad actors can get their hands on your data with the right software. There are more technical ways for wiping your data ahead of donation day.
If you’re still worried about data security, consider removing the hard drive from your computer before making your donation or recycling drop-off.
Recycling printers and IT assets
Printer recycling, especially when it comes to business equipment, requires more than simply bringing the device to your local Goodwill.
First, ensure that any sensitive information is removed from the device before it’s dropped off for repurposing, and then e-recycle it through one of the reputable organizations we’ve mentioned here.
You’ll enjoy peace of mind knowing that you have reduced your carbon footprint, and that you took care of any confidential information stored on the device.
If you’re dealing with large-scale IT equipment like servers and related business hardware, HP® provides a secure way to offload assets by offering data destruction and recycling.
Everyone needs to take responsibility for reducing electronic waste. At HP®, we understand that the life cycle of technology is getting shorter and shorter, but we all still need to find a solution to responsibly dispose of our devices.
We’ve been actively reinventing how products are designed and manufactured in an effort to reduce HP®'s impact on the planet.
Read more about our HP recycling program and efforts, and remember that cutting back on e-waste starts with you.
Related article: Recycling Electronics while Rebuilding Lives
About the Author: Dan Marzullo is a contributing writer for HP® Tech Takes. Dan produces strategic marketing content for startups, digital agencies, and established brands. His work can be found in Forbes, Entrepreneur Magazine, YFS Magazine, and many other media outlets.