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Computer Disposal/Recycling

Computers and other electronic devices can contain materials such as beryllium, chromium, cadmium, lead, mercury, nickel, and zinc. The levels of these materials are increasing dramatically every year in landfills and can pose a threat to our environment. Plastics that are part of computers are hard to isolate and recycle. CRTs (cathode ray tubes) are found in older monitors and TVs and usually contain enough lead and mercury to be considered hazardous waste. However, the EPA has been successful in obtaining exclusions from the federal hazardous waste standards for unbroken CRTs, so they can be recycled more effectively.

Batteries contain acids that can burn or hurt body parts. Batteries can introduce lead and acid into the environment. Heavy metals can leach into the ground and water sources.

Every state and many cities have specific guidelines about how to dispose of electronics. These rules must be followed by technicians who replace broken computer equipment. For example, in Florida and New York, steps have been taken to increase CRT recycling; however, other states regulate all CRTs as hazardous waste and ban them from being sent to landfills. If you are unsure about how to get rid of any piece of broken electronic equipment, contact your direct supervisor for instructions.

The following list provides alternatives and suggestions for being environmentally conscious about discarding electronics:

  • Donate equipment that is operational to schools and charities so that those who do not have access to technology can get some exposure. If the operating system is not transferred to another system, leave the operating system on it and provide proof of purchase along with documentation. Also, do not forget to erase all data stored on the computer before donating it.
  • Recycle very outdated electronics. If the devices are so outdated that a school or charity does not want them, consider recycling them. Many companies accept old electronics and have determined ways to reuse some of their parts.
  • Remove parts that do work and donate or recycle them.
  • Buy electronics that are designed with saving resources in mind and are easy to upgrade, which extends their usefulness period; are energy efficient; contain fewer toxins; use recycled materials; and offer leasing or recycling programs.
  • Check with the computer or component manufacturer to see if it has a recycling program. Most of them do.
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