How to Reuse & Recycle Computers

In most municipalities, waste collection services don't accept computers—and for good reason. Computers contain substances that are toxic to the environment and precious metals that can be recycled into new products. Despite recycling programs offered by manufacturers and government regulations on properly disposing of computers and other electronic products, the amount of electronic waste or e-waste is expected to reach 14.9 million tons by 2025, according to clean-technology research firm, Navigant.

Upgrading Your Computer

Perhaps the most effective way to reuse an old computer is to upgrade it. Adding more memory or upgrading the processor to something faster is a lot cheaper than buying a new computer. If the new components are fast enough, you may be able to upgrade the operating system and use the computer for a few more years. If you can't upgrade your computer, you may be able to use its components to upgrade another computer.

Giving an Old Computer a New Job

Aging computers can often perform lots of useful tasks. For example, if you have a large collection of music or videos, you can put these on your old PC and use it as a media computer. Old computers are also useful for monitoring home surveillance Web cameras. Whatever hobbies you have or specialized tasks you may want to perform, an old computer can often be used for that job, taking some of the workload off your primary computer. For example, photographers can use an old computer for storing photos. Musicians often use an old computer for recording music.

Donating or Selling an Old Computer

If you really have no use for your old computer, there are probably plenty of people who do. Nonprofit organizations are often stuck with antiquated computers because of budget constraints. Your old computer may be a welcome upgrade for them. People in low-income brackets often can't afford a computer for their children. Most communities have charities that accept old computers, fix them up and offer them to people in low-income situations. You can often sell old computers at yard sales or by placing a classified ad.

Computer Recycling

Regulations for recycling computers vary by state. The Environmental Protection Agency's eCycling website provides information on different regions in the United States. For example, Michigan law requires that all TV and computer manufacturers offer a free take-back program for households and small businesses. The EPA also offers links for recycling computers based on the manufacturer. (See Resources for links.) For example, many manufacturers offer permanent drop-off sites for recycling, regardless of which state you live in, meaning you can just take your old computer to the nearest recycling drop-off terminal.

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