Computer recycling is disappointingly low: only 18 percent of computers are being recycled. The remaining computers and peripherals are being sent to landfills, where they take up precious space and release hazardous chemicals -- including lead, mercury, cadmium, and toxic plastics -- into the soil, water, and air.
A typical personal computer or laptop is used for three to five years before it is replaced, yet if it ends up in a landfill, the plastics and other components can last up to 450 years and keep contaminating the environment in the process. Multiply that problem by the hundreds of millions of computers that will get replaced in the next few years.
Computers and related equipment, including printers and monitors, are the fastest growing portion of the waste stream today — growing nearly three times faster than the municipal waste segment. Compact discs and floppy discs are also being added to the waste stream at an alarming rate: approximately 2,500 tons of CDs are thrown away every year.
Increased computer recycling and reuse can do much to help alleviate the rapidly growing mounds of computers and accessories that pollute our planet. Learn how you can make a difference today!
I Did This!
It only takes a few minutes of your time to locate a facility that can recycle your computer and computer accessories. Or, if you have newer, working computers, you may want to donate them to a charity for reuse:
- Opportunities to recycle computers are offered by the Consumer Education Initiative, which is part of the Electronic Industries Alliance. One click on the map and your state, and you’ll get a list of nearby places to recycle your computer.
- Visit Ecosquid or DigitalTips, where you can recycle laptops, monitors, even computer cables. Just enter information about your computer or accessories, your zip code, and the website will give you a list of places you can take or ship your equipment for recycling in your area.
- The Environmental Protection Agency has a comprehensive website that offers links to local programs as well as well as manufacturing and retail programs for recycling computers and related equipment.
- Computers for Schools is a nonprofit professional association of organizations that handle refreshed computers and help place them in schools and educational institutions.
- Students Recycling Used Technology (StRUT) is a group in Silicon Valley, California, with similar programs in four other states, that recycles computers and peripherals and places them in schools. The other four states are Arizona, Louisiana, New Mexico, and Oregon.
- Recycles.org is a nonprofit materials exchange network for computers and office electronics. It costs you nothing to list your computer(s) on their online form. You can request a tax exempt receipt for your donation if you give it to a nonprofit.
- A visit to Earth911.org invites you to enter your zip code to find locations near you that will accept computers for recycling.
- Compact discs (CDs) are accepted for recycling by CD Recycling Center of America, which also offers suggestions on how to set up a CD recycling for individuals, schools, and businesses.
- Back Thru the Future Technology Disposal recycles CDs, DVDs, and hard drives. The company will also take empty jewel cases.
- Compact discs, floppy disks, and video cassettes are accepted by Alternative Community Training. This nonprofit employs mentally challenged adults who either refurbish or recycle these discarded materials. Fill out their online donation form and send it along with the discs and/or cassettes and you will receive a tax donation slip via return mail.
- The nonprofit National Cristina Foundation accepts donated computers, which it distributes to people with disabilities. You can arrange for your donation online and get a tax receipt.
- See Computers & Education™ and Computers Recycling Center for specific instructions on how to donate laptops, dead or alive. They will reimburse your ground shipping charges and give you a charitable receipt.
With so many opportunities to recycle computers and computer accessories or to donate them for reuse, there’s virtually no reason why our landfills should overflow with these toxic materials. Share this information with your friends, family, neighbors, and coworkers. Your efforts might spark a computer recycling effort at your workplace or in your neighborhood, an effort that will pay big dividends for the environment.