In order to keep up with the rest of the world, computers are constantly upgraded and replaced. But many do not yet realize that computers shouldn’t be thrown into the garbage like most items – several components are very harmful for the environment because they’re not biodegradable, and contain dangerous chemicals such as arsenic, nickel, lithium, and mercury. Older monitors can be even worse, containing around 5 pounds of lead that can contaminate ground water if left sitting outside. If you’re going dispose of your computer, make sure you do so in a way that’s environmentally safe. Follow these steps to make sure that your computer is ready to be recycled:
1. First, consider if you absolutely *need* to dispose of your machine. There are several options available to you if it’s still functional – you could sell it on eBay, take out an ad in the local paper, or try selling it to a used-computer store (although you should keep in mind that old computers aren’t likely to sell for very much). You could also donate it to a charity, whether it’s a local school, church, or a foundation that provides computers for the needy. So long as it’s not more than 5 years old, these organizations would be more than happy to take a computer off of your hands. But if you still wish to dispose of your computer, carry on to the next step!
2. Retrieve all of your personal data from the computer, by copying it to a USB Stick, onto an External Hard Drive or burning it onto a CD. Make sure to think carefully and plan this out; you want to make sure all data you need from your computer is backed-up before you carry on to the next step.
3. Remove all personal data from the computer. Computers store a *lot* of data, and much of it can be important or private, whether it’s addresses, credit card information, or e-mail addresses. Simply deleting files is not enough; deleted files can be easily restored, and nothing gets deleted permanently. To remove your personal data, utilize a “file shredder” (like wipe), which overwrites data on your computer permanently to ensure that the files you’ve deleted can’t be accessed again in the future. Alternatively, you could use easier and time-tested technique of taking the hard drive from your computer and destroying it with a sledge hammer (or a big blunt object of your choice). As long as your hard drive is destroyed, you should be safe.
4. Now that your hard drive is clean, you will need to recycle your computer (including the hard drive) by utilizing a computer recycling company, who often charge small fees for their service; and unlike your garbage company, these sort of places are specifically designed to handle computers. Here in Itasca County, you’d bring your old PC to the Itasca County Transfer Station:
Itasca County Transfer Station
29959 E Bass Lake Rd
Grand Rapids, MN 55744
Phone: (218) 328-5801
Monitors – $10.00
Computers and laptops – $5.00
Alternatively, you can also do research on take-back or trade-in programs offered by manufacturers; to help stem the flow of electronic waste, companies such as Dell, HP, IBM and Apple will dismantle and recycle your computer for you if you use their brand, and some may even provide a discount for you if you plan on buying a new machine.