How to Dispose of Old Computers Safely
As technology evolves at a breakneck pace, disposing of outdated computers is becoming a significant environmental issue. Reports from the EPA suggest that Americans discard more than 112,000 computers per day, but most of these computers are not disposed of properly. Why? Because it’s often unclear how to dispose of old computers safely.
While advertising encourages consumers to purchase new technology every year, we must be aware of the best practices for disposing of the devices we replace. Electronic devices like computers contain minerals like zinc, lead, mercury, and barium, which are highly toxic when they leak into land and groundwater. To preserve the health of the environment and the human population, consider recycling your company’s outdated computers if they are no longer usable. There are also many other options to discard your computers, such as donating them to a charitable organization or trading them in with a reputable company.
If you are ready to dispose of your computer, you must ensure that you do so correctly. This first entails storing your valuable data and erasing it from the computer to protect your privacy. Once you have completed this process, consider which disposal method works best for you. Read on to learn more about the environmental hazards of e-waste and the disposal process for outdated computers.
The Environmental Hazards of E-Waste
“E-waste” is the catch-all term for electronic waste. Electronic products like monitors, computers, cell phones, televisions, and more are considered e-waste once they are no longer useful. Products of this nature must be disposed of properly to avoid the environmental damage that can occur. Improperly disposed e-waste is detrimental to the environment and can cause the following issues:
- Toxic mineral contamination. Electronics like computers contain many toxic minerals, like zinc, lead, flame retardants, and barium. When we discard e-waste in landfills, these toxic materials can contaminate their surroundings by leaking into the soil and water supply. There they can wreak havoc on the health of local residents, damaging the kidneys, nervous, and circulatory systems.
- Damage to the atmosphere. When e-waste heats up, it also releases toxic chemicals into the atmosphere. The destruction of the atmosphere is an irreversible global threat, and one of the most significant effects of e-waste.
Recycle Your Brand’s Old Computers for a Better Environment
Estimates suggest that humans dispose of up to 50 million tons of e-waste per year worldwide, of which only 12.5% is recycled. In a similar vein, only 10% of people recycle their cell phones, even if they replace their devices regularly. Clearly, there is room for a much-needed change.
E-waste recycling is an essential aspect of protecting the environment and future generations from pollution. No wonder, then, that it’s becoming more common for various states to make an effort to keep landfills free of e-waste and encourage local businesses to recycle instead. For instance, in 2015, New York officials made it illegal to dispose of computers and electronics on the curbside for trash pickup.
But despite the laws put in place, the amount of e-waste continues to increase. We can attribute this to the rapid pace at which technology evolves. Keeping up with advancing industries puts pressure on companies to constantly update their systems and outfit employees with the latest devices. In addition, older devices eventually become obsolete and incompatible with newer technologies. As a result, corporations are producing a more significant amount of electronic devices to discard.
It is estimated that Americans generate the highest amount of e-waste per resident than any other demographic. However, most of the “e-waste” in landfills is still recyclable. When your business chooses to recycle your end-of-life electronics, it saves space in our landfills and prevents toxic materials from destroying the environment. Furthermore, products composed with materials from recycled electronics require less water and energy to create, minimizing pollution.
If your brand wants to do the world a favor and promote a green, eco-friendly ethos, dispose of your electronics properly. The first step? To safely clear your old computers and other devices of any sensitive data.
Erasing Information from End-of-Life Computers
Before you get rid of your old computers, you must preserve and protect your data. Even though many companies keep certain files and project data in a communal server or backed up to the cloud, there are inevitably a few key pieces that end up stored on an individual hard drive. Make sure these are accounted for. It may seem obvious, but there have been dire examples of oversight when it comes to data backups — such as the man that purchased bitcoin on his old computer, but didn’t back up the data before disposing of it. Now, he is unable to access the $280 million in Bitcoin stored on his discarded hard drive.
Taking the proper precautions to clear your computers of information will also help protect your company from potential data breaches. Failing to sufficiently erase old devices may leave you vulnerable to loss of client records, employee files, proprietary research, or product specs, to name a few. Instead of inviting this disaster, follow the steps below to keep, preserve, and erase sensitive information from all outdated computers.
Backing Up Data
When you have chosen the best electronics recycling company for the job, the first thing you need to do is back up the files on your computer systems. To retain access to your old files, you can purchase external hard drives or a cloud storage subscription, and transfer each file to this backup. Or, if your business has internal servers, make copies accessible there. Your team can also transfer files to their new devices — though it’s safer to also have extra backups elsewhere.
When we delete the files on a computer, they do not disappear forever — even if you can no longer see them, many deleted files remain stored deep within the computer. To complicate matters, remember that information is stored in many places, available within a plethora of saved files, browsers, and apps. Have your employees or IT department begin by clearing all cookies and permanently deleting files. To ensure each device is thoroughly erased of data, consider working with professionals for secure data destruction.
Breaking Hard Drives
Some people go so far as to physically break their entire hard drive, but this is not necessarily a guarantee of data destruction or security. Physically damaging your hard drive does not ensure all data is eradicated, and could still leave your company at risk.
Disposal Options for Old Computers
After saving all company information in a safe place and thoroughly erasing the data from each computer, it is time to choose the proper disposal method. However, you’ll need to do a little more than throw your monitors in the nearest dumpster. Not only does this have consequences for the environment, but it is also illegal in many areas. Keep in mind that many thrift stores don’t accept old computers, either, and that most bulk removal services are not equipped to specialize in e-waste.
So, what should you do?
If you’re dealing with computers that are inoperable or require a reliable data destruction solution, your best option is to send your end-of-life computers to a reputable electronics recycling company.
First America Metal Corp. (FAMCe) accepts a variety of devices from businesses across industries, rescuing salvageable materials to reduce our global waste and overall carbon footprint. We also specialize in secure data destruction, ensuring that your old computers’ sensitive information is safely out of reach of leaks, breaches, and cyberattacks.
Does your organization need regular electronics upgrades? Choose FAMCe as a lasting partner for your organization, and we’ll attend to your electronics recycling needs for years to come. FAMCe has multiple certified locations ready to accommodate your e-waste recycling needs safely, securely, and ethically.
If your computers are still in good working condition, you may consider donating them to a charitable organization that will give the computers to underfunded schools or families in need. However, this can be risky where business devices are involved. If your company wants to pay your success forward by donating unneeded electronics, take extra precautions to remove any files or data before the computers are handed over.
Trade In Computers
Provided that your computers are relatively new, you may be able to trade them in and receive credit towards purchasing new devices. However, you will need to find a company near your workplace that offers this service. Consider calling ahead of time or checking the company website to see if they have an option to trade in your particular computers. A few well-known companies, including Amazon and BestBuy, offer trade-in services. You will need to contact them directly to receive more information about whether or not their offer meets your needs, and whether they can accommodate a bulk trade for multiple devices.
First America Metal Corp.
Everyone should dispose of their unused computers properly to protect themselves, their business, and the environment. If you’re interested in recycling old computers, enlist the help of First America Metal Corp (FAMCe). Our organization has over 30 years of experience assisting businesses with recycling and repurposing their outdated devices.
At FAMCe, we deliver environmentally sustainable solutions for businesses who prefer to dispose of their old devices in a better way. Our high level of expertise and exceptional customer service has built our reputation as the leading company for your recycling needs.
Want to recycle your old devices with confidence? Contact FAMCe today for e-waste disposal that’s ethical and secure.