We all have one, don’t lie. The drawer of dead electronics and possibly a stack of old computers. That old laptop you always thought would be a good backup? It’s probably collecting dust in a closet. Those three old cell phones you get nostalgic about when you find them? Most likely hiding in a desk drawer behind a box of half used pens. Recycling computers and old electronics is difficult not only because we continue to see value in them but also because we just don’t know what to do with them.
We want to recycle old electronics but it’s not as simple as taking a bag of cans to the recycling center. You want to be responsible and not throw them in the trash but you might be worried if your computer is going to be recycled properly. There was quite a bit of press about how many electronics were being melted down for their valuable metals. This was usually done by simply throwing them in a pile and lighting the whole thing on fire. Not what you would call eco-friendly.
So what do you do? How do you protect yourself and the environment when you recycle your old electronics? Let’s find out.
Clean and Wipe Old Computers and Electronics
First things first. You want to recycle that old computer but then you remember you did your taxes on it for three years. Can you be sure that your information is safe when you hand it over to someone to dismantle? You can if you take certain steps.
Wipe It: Before you recycle an old computer you can properly wipe the hard drive to clear out your old data. Simply deleting files doesn’t permanently remove them like you might think. An unscrupulous person with only minimal skills can dredge up those deleted files. To protect yourself you can download tools that are designed to truly delete what you want to hide. There are a wide variety so find one with some favorable reviews. Once you have one installed, delete everything and anything you think might be valuable. You’re getting rid of the computer anyway so go crazy. If you’re hoping to make absolutely SURE your data is gone, we’d recommend a program like Disk Wiper like this one sold at Amazon. Software like this ensures that your data is safe.
Destroy It: If the computer doesn’t work so well anymore you can simply cause some damage to protect your files. Drilling a hole through the hard drive or dismantling it to destroy the inner plates will protect you against people recovering your data.
Cell Phones: Remove the SIM card and SD memory cards and keep them. After that use the phone’s tools to erase and format everything you can. Finally set new passwords and as much security as possible.
Where to go to Get Rid of Old Computers and Electronics
Recycling a computer is much easier than it used to be. There are lots of options out there and they vary depending on your location. You might be surprised how easy it is when you start to look into it.
Recycling Centers: If your area has a good recycling program it probably takes computers and electronics. Check out their website or give them a call to see what they take and if they prefer drop offs or do pickup.
Computer Shops: Your local computer store is guaranteed to be an expert on where to recycle old computers. They might even take stuff for you if you ask nice.
Big-Box Stores: Places like Best-Buy have drop off points for you to take your electronics for recycling. This is a quick and simple way to get rid of things and it’s free. Keep in mind however these items can end up being repaired and resold so make sure your data is protected.
Junk Collectors: You’ll see places like pawn shops that advertise to recycle electronics and some that even offer to pay for them. You might get a whopping five dollars for a pile of junk but it’s better than nothing. Right? Hold on. There’s big business in tearing apart old computers and selling the parts online. Some places are genuinely legitimate and take great care with the items entrusted to them but not all. There are stories that pop up of people buying cell phones with all the previous owner’s contacts still on them. There are hard drives sold filled with old personal information. Places that simply do this type of reselling simply dust the parts off, find out their value and list them for sale. What they do with the unsellable parts varies. They might be simply thrown in a dumpster.
Manufacturers: A large number of computer manufacturers will take recycle their old computers. Check their websites for details on how to send things back. They may even give you credit towards a new computer or other items. They do this to retrieve reusable components but generally are more responsible with customer old data.
Charities: Just because you don’t think something is out of date doesn’t always mean it’s useless. Many charities will take your old electronics to put them to good use with the underprivileged. Check in your area for charities that do this special type of computer recycling. You can get a tax break for the donation and feel good that it will be put to good use.
Keeping Up with New Computers
Recycling computers and electronics is something we sometimes put off because we think we’ll still have a use for them. Most of the time we forget and they end up broken or so old they have no value anymore. The sooner you recycle a computer the better. If components can be salvaged and reused it saves them from going to a scrap heap. Although the places that recycle computers are getting cleaner there is always that worry it might end up being melted down in an unclean fashion. It’s a sad fact but the amount electronic waste we produce is huge. Processing it all is a big task and many of it still is shipped overseas.