Did you know that old computers and gadgets often contain toxic chemicals that seep into the ground from landfills? What about the possibility of scavengers harvesting sensitive financial data from one of your tossed PCs? Never fear, there are ways to recycle technology responsibly without hurting the earth (and without compromising your sense of security). Follow these simple steps and you’ll be well on your way to a cleaner home – and a healthier planet!
Avoid throwing batteries in the trash
Batteries contain toxic chemicals which leak into the soil from landfills. These chemicals eventually wash down into our watershed and can get into the water supply. This affects everybody! Many grocery and department stores now have battery recycling drop-offs where old batteries can be recycled the safe way. This goes for rechargeable batteries as well. Not sure where to drop them off? Lowe’s hardware started a rechargeable battery recycling program in 2004.
Also, keep in mind that most hardware (such as laptops, PCs, game consoles, etc) have batteries embedded inside. These should also be removed and recycled separately before recycling the rest of the hardware. If you’re not sure how to remove the battery from your device, searching Google for your device name and “remove battery” will usually provide step-by-step instructions.
Wipe your data first!
Recycling a computer or device that holds personal or financial data? Be sure and clean out any internal storage drives and thumb drives completely before hauling them away. Format these drives using a full wipe option (erase everything). Do not select the “quick wipe” options since those do not fully remove data from the disk. Many programs even offer “multi-pass” wiping for added security, but you really only need to wipe the data once. Multi-pass grew in popularity due to an urban legend and now only serves to ease the paranoia of the uninformed.
Donate your tech if possible
If your product is still functioning and might still have some use, consider donating it to a reputable reuse organization. These organizations will refurbish products and donate them to schools and charities wherever needs arise. A couple of good ones include The National Cristina Foundation and World Computer Exchange. Some local robotics teams and HAM radio clubs also seek laptops and monitors for their organizations, seek them out and see if they would like any of your items.
Take your computers to a responsible e-Steward in your state
If your product is too old or broken down to donate, the next best thing is to recycle it. Although any recycling program is better than none, the best option is to use one which takes part in the “e-Steward” network. These follow high standards to ensure that nothing goes to waste or ends up shipped overseas to landfills in developing nations. E-Stewards are located all around America – click here to find one near you.
When all else fails…
If you cannot locate a technology recycling program near you, many big-box retailers offer their own programs. Staples and Best Buy, for example, will be more than happy to recycle your old devices and computers for you. If you don’t have one of these stores nearby, most manufacturers also offer their own free recycling programs which allow you to ship them the hardware from anywhere. Contact each manufacturer directly to find out how to take part. The manufacturer’s website often contains detailed information as well.
What about this smart phone?
After wiping your data clean and resetting your phone to factory default settings, cell phones can be shipped to one of several nationwide recycling programs which specialize in providing this service. Call2Recycle is one such well known and respected program. Best Buy also maintains cell phone drop-off recycling kiosks near the front of their retail locations.
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