Antiquated laptops and desktop computers, outdated cellphones and dinosaur fax machines don’t do much other than take up valuable real estate in your office, your storage area or the back room of your store. But, there are a variety of recycling programs that can help small businesses not only declutter, but properly dispose of electronic equipment.
Why Recycle Your Old Electronics
It might be easier just to dispose of your old computers and other electronics in the landfill, but what you may not realize is that computers are laden with toxic chemicals, carcinogens and heavy metals, such as mercury and lead, which can pose potential threats when exposed to humans. This often happens when the parts are crushed during the waste disposal process or simply from years of exposure to the elements. Many landfills won't even accept the devices, or might require a special disposal fee.
Additionally, recycling electronics allows manufacturers to reuse the raw materials that compose the products. Precious metals like gold, copper and engineered plastics can be repurposed in new products without the need of mining the items from the earth,” said Liz Swafford, the recycling and education program coordinator of the Dalton-Whitfield Solid Waste Authority in Dalton, Georgia.
How to Recycle Your Old Electronics
If you’re looking to rid yourself of your e-waste, you first need to decide if the devices are salvageable. If they're still in working order, but require upgrades you don’t want to make, you may find a new life for your old machines.
Across the country there are non-profit organizations seeking computers, laptops and tablets. They often don’t have the funding for new hardware and will gladly except older, gently used equipment. Other organizations will repurpose donated computers, selling them for much needed cash.
There are some important things to consider when donating a computer:
Are your electronics new enough to accept needed upgrades? Most charities will not take computers unless they can run up-to-date software. “Fewer and fewer charities want old computers donated anymore. That’s because people tend to donate very old PCs. So I suggest that you not waste their time by trying to donate your 7-year-old Celeron-based desktop PC with 1GB of RAM,” said Dan de Grandpre, CEO of Dealnews.com, a website devoted to finding the lowest electronic prices on the internet.
Is your personal information and property removed efficiently from the devices? Remember, just because you delete a few files, doesn’t mean a hacker can’t access your personal data. To be certain your old devices don’t contain any information that could be misused, you can either wipe your hard drive clean or you can buy software which removes all identifiable and personal information but leaves the Windows operating system.
Will the charity accept responsibility for removing my personal information? If the charity is willing to remove your personal data, they must have a security process to ensure the privacy of the information contained within the computer’s hard drive. Ask them to explain how they remove your identifiable information and who has access to it. Simply reformatting the hard drive is not enough to keep your information secure from a good hacker.
Appropriate Electronic Disposal
If your computer, notebook or tablet is no longer in working order or too old refurbish, you can find an e-waste disposal or recycling company that will help you get rid of your old devices.
According to Swafford, if your business is looking to recycle large quantities of electronics, you may want to work directly with an e-Stewards Recycler to ensure your machines are properly disposed. “Certified recyclers may provide a certificate stating your items were recycled properly and the weights of what was recycled for inclusion in sustainability reports. They also adhere to the best practices developed by the EPA regarding proper recycling of electronics,” she said.
Less than reputable, backyard recycling centers often offer discounted rates to recycle your old computers. But, take caution, as many of these programs lack the resources to properly dispose of the equipment.
Most computer manufacturers and big-box electronic stores like Best Buy and Staples offer some sort of recycling or buy-back programs. Check with the manufacturer’s website to learn how you can recycle your old computer through the company.
One Man’s Rubbish, Another Man’s Treasure
Some disposal agencies do require fees for handling the equipment; others will actually pay you for your old computer.
There are several other agencies which will purchase your device based on its usability and wear and tear. These companies often refurbish e-waste by returning them to working order to then sell them for profit. Some large retail electronic stores also sponsor buy-back programs. Although you won’t get rich selling your old computer equipment, the extra money can go towards the purchase of new devices.
If your electronics are still in working order you may have success finding them a new owner via eBay or Craigslist. Social networking sites may also help you find interested buyers for your devices.
It’s important to remember, that it is up to you to remove your personal data from the device prior to the sale. You may want to consider consulting an expert to ensure all of your information is wiped from the hard drive.
Angela Stringfellow is a PR and MarComm Consultant and Social Media Strategist offering full-circle marketing solutions to businesses. Angela blogs via Contently.com.