Reasons You Should Recycle Your Computer
We’ve been taught since grade school that recycling is an important part of saving our environment. Certainly, that’s true now more than ever. The entire world is manufacturing and buying new gadgets at an alarmingly increasing rate. Though we might be indulging in our electronics more than before, we haven’t been taught how to properly dispose of our old cell phones and laptops.
So, here are four good reasons why you should take your old laptops to an electronics recycler and do your tiny part of helping the environment. We hope by the end of this article you will be convinced that taking the time to sell your broken MacBook instead of throwing in the trash is the best decision.
Reasons to recycle electronics:
- Protecting Environment
- Saving Rare Earth Metals
- Keeping Landfills Empty
- Improper Disposal is Becoming Illegal
- Refurbish PCs to Help Others
- It's Easier to Recycle then Before
- Make Money Selling Old Gadgets
Saving Rare Earth Metals
Most electronics, especially laptops and cell phones, contain trace amounts of rare earth metals. They don’t amount to much, so don’t expect to make your life’s fortune from harvesting these bits of metals. Nonetheless, it’s enough that we should mention this.
These rare earth metals are in high demand. Despite what you may think, it’s not because of their monetary value, either. These metals are used in precision electronics like medical equipment. Mining and processing these metals are expensive! It’s far easier to recover them from older electronic devices and recycle them. There is an entire recycling sub-industry devoted specifically to recovering these rare earth metals because of how much they are needed.
Keeping Landfills Empty
How often do you replace your cell phone? For many people, that answer is about every two years. Americans have been trained by the big four cellular companies that we should replace our mobile devices with a new, better version every two years. What happens to our old devices after we upgrade, though?
Most people might say that they save it as a spare, hand it down to children, or give it to a friend that needs one. That device never lasts another two years, though. Eventually, it will end up in a landfill or an incinerator.
When you think about it, that’s a lot of devices! There are roughly 300 million people in the United States alone. That means that almost 150 million cell phones end up in the garbage every year. On top of that, many large businesses have a two to three-year lease and refresh cycle on their PCs. That means thousands of PCs for a single business could potentially be trashed every two years.
Of course, laptop and desktop PCs aren’t the hot selling item they used to be. Consumers today are holding on to them longer, or instead switching to simpler devices like tablets. That doesn’t mean that older equipment needs to end up in a landfill. The common computer from as far back as seven years ago can serve a new college student very well.
Which Leads to Proper Disposal
These electronic gadgets do not break down in landfills easily unlike a cardboard tube or a tissue box. It can take thousands of years for that process to occur. The more devices that can be properly recycled or refurbished and kept out of landfills, the better.
We mentioned that computers have trace amounts of rare earth metals. They also have large amounts of more common substances also, but these materials are hard to manufacture and expensive to make.
A good portion of the PC is made of silicon. That Silicon can be re-processed to make other electronic parts or even medical supplies. The filaments in capacitors can also be re-used. Likewise, the chemicals inside the batteries can be used to make new batteries.
Why should we make it a priority to re-use these materials? They can be toxic to the environment. Though it might take multiple lifetimes for computers to break down in a landfill, as they do, they can leach trace amounts of hazardous waste into the soil which slowly makes its way to the rest of our environment.
Refurbish PCs to Help Others
Have you ever heard the phrase that one person’s junk is another person’s treasure? That couldn’t ring truer for laptops.
Though new laptop sales might be flat, or even on the decline, people still need and want them. Most people don’t want to spend $1000 or more on a new PC, especially when a gently used, older PC will work just fine.
Before you start selling your laptop, though, you should probably think about refurbishing it. The refurbishment process involves multiple steps. For instance, the hard drive needs to be properly wiped for safety and privacy reasons. Simply formatting it won’t do the trick. The laptops battery needs to be tested to ensure it holds a proper charge.
This process can take a couple of days. If the battery needs to be replaced, then the old battery needs to be properly recycled (many local governments require this by law). The heatsink for the laptop’s CPU needs to be properly cleaned and re-greased with thermal transfer paste. The RAM needs to be tested to ensure it’s still working properly. The CPU fans and heatsink need to be cleaned of dust and debris. The laptop’s charger needs to be checked to make sure it’s still outputting proper power.
I didn’t mean to go on a long diatribe explaining how you should refurbish your PC. In fact, that’s not even a complete list! Proper PC refurbishment takes time and technical know-how. Many PC recyclers are trained to do this. Did you know that many small towns have non-profits or local businesses that will take your old PC, perform this process for free, and donate them to needy people or churches? It’s worth considering this option when it comes time to ditch that old laptop.
The Benefits of Recycling Computers and the Natural Environment
Technology equipment is a category of items which often experiences upgrades and the introduction of the latest and greatest offerings as the years progress. So, what can you do with your old computer when you get a new one and have to dispose of your prior one? Recycling your computer is an excellent option for a variety of reasons, many of which have a strong connection to the natural environment.
Recycling Computers Keeps Them Out of Landfills
When you recycle your old computer, you are preventing it from ending up in a landfill. Landfills are only so big and will only accommodate a certain amount of disposed items. When you throw computers into landfills, you are adding to the contents already within the landfill, where the space will eventually run out. By recycling, you are keeping these old computers out of the landfills and putting them to good use elsewhere.
Toxic Materials Within the Computer Make it Necessary to Handle with Care
Also, because computers are made of many materials, some of which are toxic, it's important to handle these items with care. You want the computers to be recycled by those who are well-versed in disposing of equipment of this type. When you recycle the computers, you are converting the items into another form and not just dropping them into landfills where they will continue to sit for months and years to come. Recycling prevents any issues of toxic materials and disposal thereof from arising and when you recycle these items, they will be handled by those who are knowledgeable in the area of recycling.
Recycling Computers Helps to Conserve Resources
In addition, when you recycle your old computer you are helping to conserve resources. Computers are constructed of metal, plastic, glass, and other materials, many of which can be recycled and put to good use in other ways. By recycling your old computer, you are taking what's old and making it new again. This will help to cut back on materials produced and then thrown away and will benefit the environment by making less waste.
When You Recycle Your Computer You are Helping to Create Jobs In Furtherance of Preserving the Environment
When you choose to recycle your old computer as opposed to simply throwing it into the trash, you are lending a hand to the environment as well as helping to create jobs for those who wish to work in environmental recycling. Individuals who work in environmental recycling, such as e-waste and electronics recycling, wouldn't have a job if individuals weren't actively recycling their old computers and electronics. By adding to the amount of people who do recycle their old electronics and computers, you are helping to ensure that individuals who work in this area of industry have jobs and that the environment is benefited as a whole.
When the time comes to replace your old computer with a new one, think long and hard about the benefits of recycling your computer over throwing it in the trash where it will ultimately find its way to a landfill. By selling your laptop to a recycler, you are helping to preserve the environment in a very important way.
What Can Consumers Do About the Growing E-Waste Problem?
Every year more than 50 million tons of e-waste are created. That’s 50 million tons of our old electronics that are making its way into our landfills. Only 12.5% of that waste is recycled. Considering e-waste doesn’t break down, and even worse, can leach harmful chemicals into our soil, this is a problem that we need to resolve. Thankfully there are plenty of ways that consumers can make a big impact on reducing e-waste right now.
Steps to Prevent the E-Waste Problem:
Repair your broken devices
Purchase used devices
Devices Don’t Need Regular Upgrades As Often As You Think
You don’t need to upgrade electronic devices as often as you might think. Many of the gadgets we use will function for our needs for multiple years. We can reduce the amount of e-waste that’s generated by simply not buying new gadgets.
Cell phone carriers would love if customers purchased new cell phones every two years. It’s another revenue stream for them. Their marketing is geared towards inducing FOMO (fear of missing out). Other brands, like Apple and Samsung, advertise themselves as being a luxury product and status symbol. They also try to make you feel like you have the worst phone if it's more than couple years old.
The same can be said for computers. Having the latest processor, graphics card, or SSD isn’t going to dramatically improve performance. Performance gains are often incremental. Most IT professionals usually recommended that you not upgrade your PC system unless you are going to get at least a 100% gain in performance over your old system.
Smartphones and laptops are nothing more than tools. They help us get jobs done. I recommend taking a personal inventory of what you use your devices for. Does your old device still complete the job? If it does, there isn’t a reason to upgrade. For most people, using an iPhone 7 still works great. It’s just as fast as an iPhone 10 for most apps. Newer phones have a nicer camera, but they are only marginally improved. Likewise, a 5-year-old laptop will still work for most people. Unless someone has a specific need, like playing games, editing video, or creating 3D renders, you shouldn’t need to upgrade often.
Repair Your Broken Devices
Sometimes our gadgets just break. It happens. When they do break it may be worthwhile to fix it instead of buying a new device.
If one of your devices breaks, start to weigh the pros and cons of replacing it. How old is it and, how much would it cost to buy a replacement? For example, a new iPhone can sell for more than $1000. If its screen might break, a screen replacement may only cost $200-$300 from reputable repair services, though. That’s a big difference in price.
Likewise, say that you have an iPhone 7 with a broken screen. A reputable repair person might cost between $100-$200 to fix it. That’s a good chunk of change for an older phone. It’s still cheaper than buying a new device, but we start approaching that cost-benefit ratio were buying a new device is feasible for the gains you’ll get in return. With that said, a replacement screen on Amazon for an iPhone 7 is only $30. If you are handy or know someone that is, $30 is cheap enough to consider fixing the device.
I could argue the same for laptops. It’s getting harder and harder to find PC repair services these days. That business has largely dried up, but if you have a repair facility locally, they should be able to source a replacement screen or motherboard for a laptop at an affordable price. If you need something like a new hard drive, Best Buy has drives that will fit any laptop.
Sometimes we need to treat ourselves to something special and new. It’s understandable. Life isn’t worth living unless you enjoy it. So, go ahead and treat yourself to that new phone or laptop, but don’t throw the old one out.
There are a lot of people that would love to have your old phone. Maybe another member of your family doesn’t care about having the latest and greatest device. Pass your old phone down to them. Maybe a friend’s kid broke their phone. Give your old gadget to them, or through that phone into a drawer as an emergency phone in the event you break yours. This isn’t a bad idea for those of us that are a little more clumsy.
At some point, aged devices can’t be handed down to others because they are simply too old, but they can always be re-purposed. There are tons of really neat projects to use old electronic devices for. Here’s a shortlist of some of those projects.
Are you building a home theater PC or have a streaming stick that uses Kodi? Old phones make excellent TV remotes. Kodi can accept web requests which means a lot of apps can be used as a Kodi remote. Likewise, some older Android phones have an IR port. That means they can be used as a generic universal remote for your TV, Roku, air conditioner, fans, etc…
Use an old tablet or phone as a smart home hub. Smart Homes are slowly gaining popularity. It’s becoming very easy to create one. Best of all, brands like Kasa have apps that can be used as hubs.
Are you thinking about starting a podcast or a YouTube channel? Use your smartphone as a webcam. There are plenty of apps that can used for this application. The camera inside of any smartphone made in the past 5 years also has better image sensors than most webcams on the market today. Most people will achieve far better video quality results from a smartphone.
Since you can use your smartphone as a webcam, that also means you could use it as a security camera. There are a lot of free, open-source security camera DVR apps that can take camera feeds from web sources. A lot of webcam apps for smartphones generate a web source from their video feeds. That means you could use one of the many webcam apps, use it as a security camera, and pipe that video feed into DVR software.
Purchase Used Devices
If you happen to be budget-strapped, or owning a pre-owned device doesn’t bother you, think about purchasing a used device. You can find a lot of great deals on places like Facebook Market Place or Craigslist. If buying an used device from a stranger is a concern, there are a lot of good professional resellers online that will be happy to sell you a used device. Purchasing from these stores also comes with the benefit of getting a certified pre-owned gadget. Many of online resellers will thoroughly inspect a device for any issues before selling them. This means you can buy pre-owned devices with the peace of mind that it won’t have any issues.
Last, but not least, if you must dispose of an old gadget, make sure to recycle it. Electronics recyclers will be able to break-down devices and dispose of them properly so they don’t harm our environment. Likewise, they can salvage functioning pieces that can be re-sold on the 2nd hand market to fix other broken devices. We can help facilitate the circle of life for our old gadgets by utilizing the services of electronics recyclers.
Most recyclers will take your old gadgets for free. Some will even pay you for them, albeit not much. If you don’t have a recycler locally, there are many available online.
As consumers, we have a lot of power to control our e-waste. There’s a lot of things that we can do to prevent our gadgets from ending up in a landfill. This article offers only a handful of tactics we can start using today. Best of all, each of these suggestions is free, or better yet, might earn you a couple of dollars.
How does e-Waste Affect the Environment?
Over 40 million tons of e-waste is tossed out each year, and many of the devices are still perfectly usable when tossed out. This can have major implications not just on the environment itself, but on the health and well-being of us. So what exactly is e-waste, and what issues can be seen through our throw-out culture?
What is e-waste?
E-waste, or Electronic Waste, is an umbrella term for any electronic devices that are tossed into the trash. This can include computers, laptops, cell-phones, iPods, video game systems. Even things like wires, and other peripherals, like controllers, computer mouses, and more.
In 1999, the average lifespan of a computer would have been up to 6 years or more. However, just 6 years later, in 2005, that number would shrink down to about 2 years. Now, it seems like we toss out computers and smartphones on a near-annual basis when the newest upgraded versions come out.
Incinerating and landfills
Only about 15% of e-waste is recycled, leaving 85% of all electronics produced to go straight to the landfills after use. Not only is this wasteful, but these chemicals can leech into the groundwater and even in runoff. This can create elevated levels of chemicals in the local food supply, thus increasing health risks.
But the main issue comes when this waste is incinerated. This method is often used as a way to produce energy, but as a result, large amounts of chemicals are released into the air, which can then wreak havoc on the health of the locals, as well as the wildlife.
Dumping them in other countries
We export a lot of our garbage, with e-waste being one of the largest groups. However, we often do not consider what could be the ramifications of exporting, which is often given to developing countries. These countries often have kids that search through the waste, trying to find any small precious metals that are used in the circuitry.
This can be a major hazard for young children, but can also harm the environment as a whole. Especially as many of these countries do not have landfills like many developed countries do, so the waste is spread out all over the land. This leeches into the rivers and streams, making them highly toxic.
The vast majority of lead and other heavy metals found in landfills are a direct result of e-waste. This can be a huge problem for a variety of reasons, not the least of which being seeping into the local groundwater. Exposure to these heavy metals, like Lead, Mercury, and Cadmium, can stunt development in children, and cause cardiovascular issues and increased cancer rates nationwide.
What to do
The best thing to do would be to not purchase electronics if you do not have to. If you do, in fact, have to purchase something new, try to think of a way in which these electronics can be recycled. For instance, sell laptops and electronics to electronics recycler that will not only pay you but also recycle them so they do not make it to the landfill.
Every little bit counts when it comes to our environment. So try to recycle as much as possible, as well as lower your consumption.
What Electronics Need to be Recycled?
Electronics are everywhere in our lives. The average person in a developed country owns a smartphone, laptop, television, microwave, printer, monitor, tablet, camera, MP3 player, and radio. Every couple of years, these electronic products become outdated, and people want to replace them with newer versions. But what happens to all these older electronic products? They get thrown away.
Electronic waste, also known as e-waste, is a big problem in the world. According to a United Nations statistic from 2015, up to 50 million metric tons of electronic waste are discarded annually. Since the number of smartphones in the world is more than the total world population, you can imagine how much waste gets created every time a new iPhone or Android phone is released. All these people throw away their old phones and purchase new ones, only adding more electronic waste to the world.
The most ignored fact about electronic waste are the dangers it inflicts upon the environment. Electronic waste consists of so many environmentally hazardous materials, such as chromium, mercury, cadmium, polychlorinated biphenyls, and brominated flame retardants. When these materials get thrown away, they spread dangerous chemicals into the soil and pollute the air with toxic fumes. This can affect the health of agriculture, wildlife, and human beings on our planet.
To stop this trend from happening, everybody on Earth must agree to start recycling their unwanted electronic products and components. Then we can start to reverse the devastating problems that we’ve already created from our electronic waste crisis.
What to Recycle
Roughly 20% of all electronic waste gets recycled, leaving the other 80% to destroy the environment. When electronic waste is discarded, it usually gets incinerated or placed in landfills. Both of which are hazardous to our health and the environment because of the toxic materials and chemicals in them. So, you must take electronic recycling seriously to save this planet and our lives.
It is easy to figure out which electronic items need to be recycled. If it is something that plugs into the wall and contains wires and chips, then it must be recycled. Some examples of these items include the following:
- All computers (desktops, laptops, etc.)
- All computer parts and components (CPUs, motherboards, graphics cards, etc.)
- All computer accessories (keyboards, monitors, mice, scanner, printer, etc.)
- All televisions (LCD, Plasma)
- Office equipment
- Radios, stereos, DVD players
- Smartphones and other mobile devices
However, there are certain electronics which cannot be recycled because of regulations dictated by local municipalities or electronic waste recycling programs. These forbidden items include:
- Smoke alarms
- Medical equipment
- Any large appliance
If you need to get rid of these items, the best thing to do is call a local appliance company in your area and have them remove these items for you. They’ll likely keep these electronic items for themselves and disassemble them for spare parts and accessories. At least they won’t end up in a landfill somewhere.
The Recycling Process for Electronic Waste
Professional electronic recyclers do not exist in every city and state. But if you happen to have one nearby, they may offer to pick-up your electronic waste for you. Just don’t expect them to routinely come to your house like your local waste management company. Professional e-recyclers must make special trips to obtain your waste.
Once the electronic waste is brought back to their facility, they put it through a mechanical shredding machine. From there, the shredded pieces are put through a highly innovative separation device which extracts all usable metals from the debris. These metals are brought to a smelter where they’re eventually reused to make other electronic devices and appliances.
On the other hand, you can find plenty of computer and electronic stores which offer to take your old electronics off your hands for you. You can sell iPhones and computers to these stores for some cash.