Millions of computers become obsolete every year, replaced by faster units and thinner screens. The good news is there are many recycling centers where old computers can take on a new life.
These recycling centers fix whatever computers they can for reuse. The rest of the machines are reduced to their basic components, which are sold to various refineries that convert them into new products.
Consumer Reports says that recycling is much better than tossing an old computer into a landfill because computers contain many toxic chemicals. The monitor can contain up to four pounds of lead, and other components can contain other chemicals such as cadmium, mercury, and flame retardants. These chemicals can cause problems when they leach into ground water from a landfill or are released to the air from incinerators.
Recycling can be a better option, although it is difficult to be sure that computers are recycled properly. The environmental watchdog group Basel Action Network says that it has documented computer parts being burned and dumped out in the open in China, potentially exposing local residents to hazardous chemicals.
It isn't easy to verify that your old equipment is going to be recycled safely, but you can ask if the recycler has signed the Electronics Recycler's Pledge. This pledge states that the company agrees to the following:
No export of old computers, monitors, and other hazardous electronic waste.
No dumping of that waste in regular landfills or incinerators in the U.S or overseas.
This new Web site from Consumers Union, the publisher of Consumer Reports and ConsumerReports.org, will launch on Earth Day, April 22.
Before you consider recycling your computer, Consumer Reports advises you to see if you can pass it on to someone who can use it. The National Cristina Foundation matches people who want to get rid of older electronic equipment with those looking for an inexpensive option.
Consumer Reports has no commercial relationship with any advertiser or sponsor appearing on this Web site.
When it comes to electronics, most of us want the latest and greatest. But it's what we do with the old stuff that's become the focus this Earth Day. Find out how to recycle your unwanted electronics and more Earth Day links. More>>