How to Dispose of Computers
Level of difficulty:
At the rate that technology is going today, users have found the need to upgrade their computer systems every so often. Computers tend to become obsolete because of the emergence of better, newer, and much faster models. Upgrades commonly entail the disposal of old computers, monitors, modems, keyboards and printers.
- Old CPUs
- and keyboards
Before deciding to upgrade and throw away old computers and their peripherals, consider the hazardous materials found in most of them. Toner cartridges for instance contain a black toner pigment referred to as carbon black, a commercial powder form of the carbon element. Colored toners contain such things as heavy metals. Most of these cartridges may be recycled and a number of office supply stores offer customers rebates when they return empty cartridges. Users could also get in touch with manufacturers or visit these manufacturers’ websites because companies like Lexmark recycle cartridges.
There are several places where ink cartridges are accepted for recycling. Some stores pay customers who return cartridges and there are a number of schools and charity organizations that collect these cartridges in order to raise funds. Manufacturers like Hewlett-Packard include envelopes for customers to use when returning ink cartridges for recycling.
Monitors are among the worst computer components to carelessly throw away especially the bigger and older cathode ray tube computer monitors that are very similar in makeup to television sets. Monitors or televisions contain lead, a known carcinogen and neurotoxin. They are also made up of other toxic materials like cadmium, chromium, and mercury which are all biohazards. Working monitors should not be thrown away in the trash because they may be donated to charity organizations or schools. A number of computer manufacturers like Apple accept old monitors for recycling when users purchase new ones. There is actually a website that provides a list of manufacturers with take-back programs. There is also a market for recycled computers in other countries.
The central processing units or CPUs of computers contain a mixture of toxic substances that include the cadmium in the semiconductors and mercury in the switches of the circuit boards which in turn contain lead. Before disposing this component, users must first check if they could still make use of it by adding memory or space in the hard-drive. Like monitors, CPUs could also be donated to schools or charities. Before giving them away, users would have to delete all their personal data from the computer system. Large computer manufacturers like Gateway and Dell have programs that help users dispose of their e-waste. There are organizations like the SVTC or programs like the Electronic Takeback Campaign for people who want to dispose of their old CPUs.
Computer cables are found to contain PVC or polyvinyl chloride, also a known carcinogen. This is why they need to be disposed of properly. Long-term exposure to the substance could result in testicular and liver damage. It is these same cables that have value to the recyclers because of the copper wires contained inside them. There are a number of groups found in the website eCycling which accept components of computers for reuse or recycling.
Keyboards, mouse devices, modems, networking equipments, and printers are usually comprised of plastic material and have little circuit boards in them containing the substance lead. There are several responsible recyclers that remove the solder on these circuit boards in order to be reused.