“Reduce, reuse and recycle” is the slogan adopted everywhere. And it should be. The practice of recycling is needed now more than ever. While wood, paper and other products are often thought of the most when it comes to recycling, there’s one item that everyone has but rarely thinks of while disposing. Computers, laptops and their constituents are one of the most disposed off items but their recycling is rarely carried out. In this article, learn why such electronic products have led to a separate form of recycling, called computer recycling.
Computers and Their Impact as Waste
The junk and garbage that is present in dumps and landfills is highly varied. People can throw anything and everything. One such staple item is a computer monitor, especially the old-fashioned CRTs. A big yellowish in tone, CRT monitor is a typical fixture amongst most garbage dumps. CPU’s, laptops and various internal parts like motherboards, graphics cards, wires, computer fans get thrown away. Such electronic garbage can be in bulk or just a random occurrence. Bulk computer garbage can come from stock clearing of electronic stores and shops, or if a particular product is defective, then the entire shipment is cleared out. Even a school upgrading its computer lab can throw out between 20 – 50 computers at a minimum. Too many spare parts and fluctuations in cost are other reasons for bulk electronic rubbish. They may not be noticeable, hidden under more voluminous debris but computers, whole and in parts are a major part of garbage.
And they are also amongst the most environmentally harmful products that get thrown away. In case you haven’t noticed, computers are NOT bio-degradable, individually or in parts. Monitors are made of plastic and other synthetic materials as well as glass. Hard disks, fans, motherboards.. all made of metals like lead, mercury, copper, iron, tin etc., the list of the metals is endless but one property they share in common, not biodegradable. And metals tend to leak and rust or seep on exposure to air, especially lead and mercury. Hence they can enter the soil and seep into groundwater and end up contaminating drinking water. Burning them releases very noxious fumes and thick black smoke, which just pollutes the atmosphere. Using acid is another method, which again adds to pollution. It’s pretty clear all forms of the environment – soil, water and air, suffer from waste management of computers.
Here are some hard, cold statistics, to sum up the computer garbage scenario:
☢ In America, at least 3 billion electronic devices are owned. Not produced or sitting in a store, the American population has purchased 3 billion electronic devices.
☢ Out of this, computers and phones are the majority holders. The average American family of 4 members, owns at least 2-3 computers.
☢ According to EPA ((Environmental Protection Agency) statistics, an estimated 3.16 million metric tons of e-waste are disposed in the U.S. alone.
☢ The EPA also estimates that at least 40-50 million computers will become obsolete in 1 year. And on a yearly average, an approximate 20 million computers are discarded.
☢ The rate of disposal of electronic waste is higher than any other waste category. In simple terms, we have thrown more and more electronic waste each year and the rate just keeps increasing.
It’s clear from the above data, that there is a serious need to recycle electronics and to do so as soon as possible. What is sad is that computers are highly recyclable products, if some thought is given to their disposal. Just because a CPU is broken, the internal parts can still be good. What about the motherboard, ports, various chip-sets? They could be taken out and sold or traded as spare parts. The same applies for laptops. Often with broken or defective computers, just one part or component is the problem. The shell or casing can be good or even the other parts, why throw them away?
Computers can even be refurbished or fixed and can be used or sold. The various metals present in computer garbage are valuable and still solid components, that can be melted to be reused and reclaimed. Aluminum, copper and iron are just a few metals, that can be extracted from computer waste. The avenues for computer recycling are there, one just has to use them before taking the easy way out of throwing the computer in the trash. Here are some methods of e-cycling:
♣ Old but still working computers can be donated to schools or charities or even lower-income families. What may be obsolete to an organization, may be completely fine for a school or a non-profit organization. Such generosity can benefit in terms of tax cuts and donations.
♣ Local recycling centers and organizations are capable of dealing with such waste. Inquire as to what products are accepted or not and drop them off. There are even drives and events where such products are accepted in bulk.
♣ Why not return the device to the manufacturer? Try the appliance store, from where it was purchased or the manufacturer’s office and ask if they have any means to a green disposal of the computer. Most manufacturers accept old devices as a way to reuse particular parts or refurbish them. Dell, Sony and Samsung have their own recycling programs that deal with computer products waste management.
♣ Your local computer repair shop or hardware store may also accept such products, for reusing parts and components. One man’s junk is another man’s treasure!
♣ You can help reduce your computer’s green footprint by buying green in the first place. Look for computers that consume less energy or power. Check out the manufacturer’s policy regarding recycling instead of disposal. Packaging and even recyclable components are another “green” perk to look for. Asus is a very environmental friendly computer brand, with its Bamboo range of laptops.
To summarize, computer recycling is a small but extremely important step in reducing or wiping out the impact of yet another man-made product on the Earth’s health. Think of recycling less of a duty and more of a responsibility and do the needful.