Environment Protection Agency statistics say only 15% to 20% of all personal electronics in the United States are recycled (2007). Among those personal electronic devices are computers and their related components. That means up to 80% of all electronics end up in landfills, where they do not biodegrade but instead leach toxic elements such as lead and cadmium into the earth, and subsequently into our groundwater.
Some of those computers are still usable. The next time you upgrade your computer system, consider donating your still working computer. Remember as well to include the mouse and keyboard along with the computer. And keep records of what you've donated for tax purposes. If you donate to a non-profit refurbisher, you're most likely to qualify for a tax deduction. Remember to ask for a receipt.
Things You Will NeedWorking but outdated computer, keyboard and mouse, plus original operating system installation discs (if available)
Donating your old computer and its components is a great way to pass along useful equipment and keep e-waste out of the landfill. But resist the urge to donate directly to a school or church, especially if your computer is over 5 years old. It is sometimes cost prohibitive for those institutions to refurbish and upgrade outdated operating systems or find technical support if there are any problems with the computer.
Step 2Look for computer refurbishers in your area and call to check if your computer can be donated or needs to go to a recycler. Some refurbishers won't accept computers with a processor older than a Pentium II. Refurbishers are also better able to handle upgrades and repairs than schools or other charities. Check out the Earth911.com site which has a zip code specific search to help you find donation or recycling locations near you.
Step 3Remove your personal information before the computer leaves your possession. This includes all your emails, internet search and purchasing history, and stored passwords. Most of us do much of our financial transactions and purchasing online these days and the hard drive on your computer stores all of that sensitive information. Simply hitting the delete button or emptying the recycle bin will not erase your hard drive. Erase your hard drive with a program like Wipe Drive, KillDisk or DriveScrubber.
Step 4Keep the operating system that was originally installed on the computer intact. Many operating system licenses are only valid if running on the computer they were installed on. It helps too if you include the installation CDs that came with the system with your donation.
If your computer turns out not worth donating, use the Earth911.com site to locate a recycling center for that equipment.