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Home > Computer Articles > Why Recycle Computers?

Why Recycle Computers & Electronics?

While computers today play an involved role in modern society, they've been around longer then you may imagine. From the design of the computer mouse by Douglas Engelbart in 1963, to the popularity of the Apple II and the Commodore in the ’70s and ’80s, these machines have quickly transitioned from multi-room machines to units that easily fit in a backpack or on our desks.

With increasing numbers of Cheap Laptops For Sale and other types of electronics flooding the consumer market (smartphones, netbooks, cell phones, etc), the issue of how to safely dispose used equipment continues to expand. The ramifications of this phenomenon are widespread:

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Plug in to eCycling program, just 15% to 20% of inactive PCs, TVs, cell phones and other electronic devices are being recycled in the United States (latest statistics are from 2007). Every computer dumped into a landfill symbolizes a missed opportunity to supply Information-Age tools to people and organizations everywhere.


A Major Source of Electronic Waste

Computers are a principal contributor to electronic waste (e-waste), presenting a major disposal problem because they are comprised of assorted components that are toxic to the environment. Studies estimate nearly 500 million computers became obsolete by 2007 in the United States alone, nearly 2 computers per person and billions of pounds of excess computers. Electronics recycling can divert over 95% of these materials from our landfills. Including the numerous hazardous substances contained in old PC equipment. Monitor picture tubes (Cathode Ray Tubes or CRTs) carry lead. Remaining in landfills, CRT lead can leach into the ground, poisoning our soil in addition to our water supplies. Computers and other associated equipment also hold hazardous materials including lead, lithium, cadmium, mercury, beryllium and more. Landfilling runs the risk of poisoning our environment. Electronic products make up the largest remaining contributor of heavy metals to the solid waste stream.

Electronic products are built from valuable resources also, including precious and other metals, engineered plastics, glass, and other materials, all of which demand energy to source and fabricate. Many electronic products also hold components that could be profitably refurbished and reused with minimal effort. Once we discard old electronic equipment, we're throwing away these resources and creating further pollution related to the need to access virgin materials and construct new products.

Disposal isn't the solution; computers and other electronics should be properly treated by a recycling company instead of being directed to a waste disposal company. Eliminating outdated high-tech gear isn’t as simple as laying it out for the trash collection. Old TVs, monitors and computers are laden with Earth-unfriendly metals and chemicals. In most cases, garbage collection firms refuse to take such items. Even if you could get away with leaving items like these at the curb, it’s not a redeeming idea. They’ll wind up in dumps and could poison the Earth. For years, developed countries have been exporting loads of electronic waste material for cheap, labor-intensive recycling and disposal, mostly to China. It's been illegal to import e-waste into China for dirty recycling and dumping since 2000, but smuggling, subversion and China's appetite for waste keep it flowing.

The Institute for Local Self-Reliance estimates that 75% of out-of-date electronics are presently being stored, which will one day result in a monumental disposal issue for the country and the world.


Recycle With The Manufacturer For A Discount

If the the guilt trip angle doesn't work on you, how about the good old "WIFM" (What's In it For Me?")? More and more computer and electronics companies are offering incentives for recycling or "exchanging" your electronics. Recycling is generally not free so these companies are offering to absorb that cost in exchange for your business. Here are just a few:

  • Apple - will take back ipods and any brand computer or monitor for free if you purchasing a like product from them.
  • Dell - will take back any Dell product at any time for free and any other computer product for free if you are purchasing a like product from them.
  • Gateway - takes back many products for a fee and may give a partial trade-in value.
  • HP - Consumers who pay to recycle HP products can use that receipt to get a future credit towards another HP purchase.
  • Lenovo - Will offer money back on some items (they have an online calculator to assist with this)
  • Toshiba - Will take back any Toshiba notebook for free and any other notebook for the cost of shipping

If you have a computer that's less than 5 years old, it can likely be put to good use by someone else. It works out better for everyone involved if you are able to donate your equipment to a nonprofit or school-based refurbisher instead of directly to a charity or school, particularly if you need to wipe your hard drive or are unsure of the condition of your equipment. Refurbishers will make certain that equipment donated to nonprofits and schools is functioning well and runs legal copies of software. They also have experience in how to properly dispose of non-usable components, so-called "e-waste." Refurbishers work with newer equipment, usually Pentium-level computers or newer items that can run current Internet programs. If your computer is more than five years old, it will be better to send it to a commercial recycler.

The reasons to recycle computers are powerful. With continuing innovations in technology, there is an growing opportunity to recycle computers, limiting the quantity that wind up filling in local landfills.


PC Bargain Hunter has articles on computer recycling, staying safe while shopping online, and shopping guides to find Cheap Laptops For Sale.

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