December’s Project: How To Recycle Computers

E.B. Boyd by E.B. Boyd | February 22nd, 2009 | No Comments
topic: Green Living, Green Tech

If the lines outside Best Buy on Black Friday weren’t indicator enough, the holidays are clearly when many families look for great deals on new computers. If you’re one of them, you might be wondering what you should do with the one you’re replacing.

You probably know that it’s illegal in most states to dump them in the trash. And as a good greenie, you probably wouldn’t want to. Never fear. It’s easy to help them find a new life elsewhere.

But first.

Before you get rid of your computer, remember to wipe your hard drive. Whether you donate or recycle, you want to make sure that your private information doesn’t inadvertently fall into the wrong hands. It’s not enough simply to delete your files. Experts can easily recover deleted data. You actually have to completely reformat, or “wipe,” the drive. You can either do that yourself using commercial software (TechSoup provides a list of recommended tools), or you can take it a computer repair shop you trust and have them do it for you.

Donate

If your computer is less than five years old, consider donating it. Plenty of organizations will be happy give your castoff to a school or to someone who can’t afford to buy their own. Goodwill (through the Reconnect program), the National Cristina Foundation, and Computers for Schools are places to try. You can also search the Earth911 website for “computer donation.” And TechSoup also provides a list of refurbishers who will clean up your machine and donate it to a worthy cause.

Return to the Manufacturer

Many manufacturers have programs to take back their own computers. Some will do it for free; some charge a fee. To find your manufacturer’s policy, search online for your manufacturer’s name and “computer take back.” For example: “Dell computer take back” or “Apple computer take back.”

Recycle with a Third Party

The electronics recycling industry has exploded in the past few years, and today a slew of companies exist to take your computers, monitors, and other digital devices off your hands. But do your research first. Not all companies follow environmental practices. Find a company near you on the Earth911 website, and then call them to confirm that they neither dump electronics in landfills nor export electronics overseas to be dumped over there.

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