What Do I Do With This Old Laptop?
A question you’ve probably asked once or twice with a piece of technology, whether it was indeed a laptop, a cellphone, maybe a tablet, PC computer, or TV. The average person in the U.S owns about 13 devices. Eventually, one of those devices will run its course and be of no use any longer. Maybe you have an old phone that doesn’t work any longer at home, or you have several laptops at the office that are outdated and are taking up space. Your instinct is to (hopefully) recycle these items, but do you really know how to do it? No, it’s not as simple as the blue bin next to the dumpster. There’s a bit more to it than that.
E-waste, or electronic waste, is all discarded electrical or electronic devices. E-waste has become the world’s fastest growing trash flow. The U.N estimated that the global e-waste output would be close to 50 million metric tons this past year.
The U.S alone generated roughly 6.9 million tons of e-waste in 2016 (42 pounds per person).
Unfortunately, only 20% of the global e-waste is collected and delivered to the appropriate recyclers. Why is that? Well, the real answer is because many people don’t know much about the recycling process, or the impact of tossing electronic devices into the dumpster.
Check it out: The Life Cycle of a Mobile Phone Infographic
So, you have a laptop that’s been collecting dust for a few years now and you’re finally ready to let it go. First things first, take some time to completely wipe all data and information off of it. Maybe you still have a folder filled with old photos, or documents that you may have forgotten about. Go ahead and move those to a USB and get everything off the device. After that, think about if there’s any part of the device you could reuse. If you’re getting rid of those office computers, maybe there’s parts you could use for a new build. Things like lithium-ion batteries, speakers, LED and LCD screens, and even screws and bolts can come in handy for future projects.
Check it out: Integrating New Equipment Into The Office
I’m going to assume you know you’re not supposed to toss electronic devices into your garbage can, but just to be safe, I’ll tell you why.
The materials that those devices are made out of, are not great for the environment. Laptops are often made of elements such as lead and mercury and cell phones emit greenhouse gases when dumped into the landfill due to the buildup of metals in the soil. At millions of tons of waste, you could imagine the amount of harmful emissions that are released.
Check it out: The Problem With E-Waste Video
Depending on the condition device you are getting rid of, you may be able to visit your local Apple store or give Dell a call. You might be in store for a small discount at Apple or a free equipment pickup from Dell. If Apple or Dell are possibilities for you, bring your devices to a Staples store and they will often recycle everything properly for you.
If you want to skip the stores all together, head over to the nearest recycling plant. Any device you drop off will be broken down there. All electronics go through a process called WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment) to ensure that all valuable metal components are removed.
Check it out: The Lifespan of Your Computer
Then, the batteries and copper wiring are removed by hand. The devices are all sorted and taken apart to remove any materials that can be reused somewhere else. Then, after removing glass, batteries, and copper, the devices are shredded to break down the device so it’s easier to separate materials. After everything is shredded, magnets are used to pick up any iron or steel left in the debris. Aluminum, brass, and copper can be reused in their raw form. Glass and plastic fragments are recycled into new devices to be resold, then the cycle continues.
Proper Disposal Checklist:
1. Backup important files and documents
2. Wipe your hard drive
3. Uninstall programs
4. Delete browsing history
5. See if any parts are salvageable
6. Contact original seller of product
8. Save the planet
Sure, it might sound easier to just toss the laptop in the dumpster and let it become someone else’s issue, but properly recycling devices really isn’t as hard as it may sound and it’s just the right thing to do.
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