How to Recycle Computers

edited August 2023 in Green

It’s no secret that electronic waste can be harmful to the environment. As the plastic, hard drives, batteries, and other components start piling up in dumps around the world, the impact on the environment only increases. 

In recent years, the technology industry has woken up to the harmful effects tech waste can have on the environment and started to provide pathways for concerned global citizens to recycle their tech. From buyback programs to simple recycling opportunities, the environmentally conscious now have more ways to be eco-friendly. 

Recycling computers has become an especially popular option for the eco-conscious. Realizing that their outdated machines may have harmful chemicals and components, people around the globe are finding outstanding ways to recycle their computers and reduce their impact on the environment.  

But like anything else, there are pitfalls along the way. And while many services purport to properly recycle computers, they sometimes fall short. 

That’s why we’ve compiled the following guide to help you identify the best practices for recycling your computers. If you follow this guide, you’ll be well on your way to doing your part in fighting the global e-waste problem. 

Ditch your data 

The first order of business when recycling your computer is to erase all your data. As nice as it is to recycle your PC, the last thing you want is for your personal information to fall into the hands of a malicious actor. 

To ensure your data isn’t stolen when you recycle your PC, you have one of two options: erase your hard drive and leave it with the computer or rip the hard drive out and recycle the computer without any data drive. 

If you erase your hard drive, be sure to use an effective solution. Microsoft’s built-in hard driver wiper in Windows works well. You may also want to consider third-party options like DBAN or Disk Wipe. Regardless of what you choose, be sure to use a disk wiper that fully eliminates your data and makes it incapable of being restored. 

The safer option may be to remove the hard drive from your computer before you recycle it. By keeping the hard drive (or solid-state drive) yourself, you can ensure no one can restore your data and access your private information. Unless there’s a specific reason to keep the hard drive in your machine, strongly consider removing your drive before recycling the PC. 

Thoroughly research recycling options 

Not all PC recycling programs can nor should be trusted. But luckily there are a variety of services available that vet recycling programs to help you find the best option. 

As a first step, be sure to opt for a recycling company that’s been certified by  Sustainable Electronics Recycling International. SERI, as it’s better known, investigates recycling options and only assigns its certification to those that are trustworthy and responsibly recycle your tech products. 

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is another outstanding resource for finding reliable recyclers and similarly provides a list of those you can count on to do the right job. Some other organizations, including the Computer Technology Association and Earth 911 also offer handy resources for finding reliable computer recycling programs. 

Speak to charitable organizations 

While it may be easier to recycle your computers, donating them to charitable organizations may be a more appealing option for some.  

There are likely several charitable organizations in your community seeking computers. Some of those organizations may require a working machine and others may be willing to refurbish a computer before they provide it to those they serve. The World Computer Exchange is a global organization that takes PCs and provides them to people around the world where access to digital solutions are limited.  

Regardless of the route you choose, the impact could be greater by donating PCs to people who need them most. The digital divide, a term used to describe the differences in opportunities for those who have access to the Internet and those who do not, is a major global concern. Arming people with the opportunity to have a computer, get online, and freely express themselves with technology empowers more people with opportunities they so richly deserve. 

Consider upgrading your PC 

One of the nice things about Windows PCs is that they’re generally easy to upgrade. So, if you think you want to get a new computer but want to reduce your environmental impact, consider breaking open your computer to see how easy it would be to upgrade your PC instead of buying new. 

Most major retailers and specialty computer stores sell components that are compatible with your computer. And depending on whether you want more memory to improve software performance or you’d prefer a new hard drive and some additional power from a new processor, swapping out parts may be easier than you think. 

Be aware, however, that upgrading a PC isn’t for everyone and you run the risk of damaging your computer if you do it improperly. It’s a great option for recycling computers, but you’ll want to make sure you know what you’re doing before you move forward. 

A look ahead 

As the world becomes more aware of the impact electronics have on the environment, the opportunities to recycle computers and other technology will only improve. And that’s undoubtedly a positive force in the industry. But like anything else, those efforts need to be done properly. If you follow the aforementioned steps, you can responsibly recycle your computers and make a positive impact on the world. 


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