You may be used to recycling household trash like plastic and glass bottles, cans, and paper, but do you recycle your electronics, including computers, as well? Even though computer recycling centers and businesses are becoming more commonplace, few computer users think to recycle their old computers or computer parts. In fact, the EPA states that of the over 200 million computers in the United States, only about 500,000 of them are recycled annually. What do people do with their old computers that don’t get recycled? Unfortunately, most wind up in our landfills, which are dangerous to the environment and illegal in most states.
Most people who dispose of computers and computer parts in landfills don’t realize that electronics contain toxic metals that can seep into our groundwater and poison the environment. The cathode ray tubes, circuitry and peripherals contain lead, lithium, cadmium, mercury and beryllium, all of which are the heavy metals that pose a risk to our soil and water. They may also not realize that 99% of a computer is recyclable. The glass from the monitor, the keyboard, the cathode ray tube, cables, circuit board and power cord metals, the plastic case, and the CD Rom drive can all be reused.
Landfills can’t just grow forever. Computer waste adds millions of tons of garbage to landfills each year. Adding to the problem is that most computer users buy new computers and accessories every 3-5 years. Where is all that e-waste going to go? Aren’t there better ways to use old computers or the metals and plastics from them?
A number of options exist for the safe, sensible, and legal disposable of computers and computer parts.
- Donate your computer to a local non-profit organization. Many small or grassroots non-profits need computers less than five years old for their staff members and for programs they offer to teach children and adults how to use computers. If you’d rather go global, www.worldcomputerexchange.org sends donated computers to youths in third world countries to aid in their development.
- Donate your computer to a school-based refurbisher who can retool your “obsolete” computer into one suitable for use in schools.
- Take advantage of one of the many corporate recycling programs. Most large computer manufacturers offer a “take back” program for their brand electronics. Apple, Dell, Gateway, HP, Lenovo and Toshiba offer recycling programs, as do corporate retailers like Office Depot, Staples and Best Buy. Sometimes a small fee is required to use this option, but in some cases, the company will reward you with a discount on future purchases.
- Call your local city government offices for a list of local e-cyclers. Most municipalities offer free services to dispose of your old computer and computer parts.
- Arrange pick-up or drop-off with a commercial recycler. Again, there may be a fee, but consider it a donation to preserve a safe and healthy future!
If you’d like more information on computer use, landfill hazards or recycling, here are a few websites to check out: www.epa.gov, www.greenstudentu.com, www.digitaltips.org/green/ and www.osha.gov.
Submitted by guest blogger Breana Orland, a writer for The College Grant Breana also gives advice on the pursuit of higher education and career options for young adults.