Recycling Tech: Don’t Kick Your Computer to The Curb


Hi, I’m your computer. I make your life more interesting, convenient and fun. However, I’m also full of all kinds of goodies like lead, hexavalent chromium, and mercury, and if you dump me I’ll give you and your whole family cancer and brain damage.

Ok, your computer probably isn’t threatening you like a psychotic ex-lover. But given the toxicity of tech, keeping your electronic gear out of landfills is absolutely essential. Waiting longer between upgrades and not feeling obliged to buy Steve Jobs latest marketing coup the day it’s released is the greenest solution. However, when you absolutely have to have a new computer, there are environmentally sound ways of getting rid of the old stuff.

If your machine is still useful but you just don’t need it anymore, consider the National Cristina Foundation. This non-profit organization provides computers to people with disabilities and to those who simply can’t afford to buy their own. Through their local partners, the Foundation can arrange to pick up your computer in most places in the US, although they will want to verify that you’re not just trying to unload junk.

For the less philanthropically inclined, most major computer manufacturers have take-back programs that allow you to send them your old hardware. Programs differ—most, but not all companies take only their own products, while some offer a credit towards a new purchase. For a concise list of programs and terms check out this useful site called Computer Takeback.

If you’re determined to squeeze every last dime out of your obsolete machine, there’s a company called Second Rotation that will sell it for you on eBay. However, they’ll take a piece of the proceeds, so you may just want to put it up for auction yourself. Either way, make sure and wipe your hard drive unless you want those candid Spring Break photos to put the kibosh on your future shot at American Idol.

Of the holy trinity of green commandments—reduce, reuse, recycle—the last is the least desirable. It takes energy to do it, and let’s face it, most tech is disposed of not because it’s stopped working but because it’s out of date. However, if you absolutely can’t find anyone to take your old computer off your hands, many communities have recycling centers that accept tech gear. In the private sector, Office Depot will also take your old PC and for a small fee, separate it back into its basic elements.

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