Celebrate Earth Day By Safely Recycling Computers and Electronics

April 22, 2013

Today is Earth Day and I want to talk about ways that you can dispose of a computer and/or electronic equipment safely. I want to give a shout out to loyal reader Greg Williams for suggesting today’s topic.

Earth DayIf we are dealing with something that contains data, you may want to remove the data before disposing of the computer. There are a variety of ways to do this depending on how worried you are about erasing the data.

With Windows Vista and above, you have the option of formatting a drive using the “Write Zero” method. For any drive other than the system drive, you type FORMAT F: /p:2 where F is the letter of the drive to format. Note that the /p:2 is telling the format command to make two passes of writing zeros to every sector of the drive.

It may simply be easier to use a dedicated utility as it can wipe any drive. One of the best utilities for this is the free Darik’s Boot and Nuke. You download the image of a CD-ROM and use it to create a CD from which you can boot. Boot from that CD and you have the option to “nuke” any drive you desire.

Once you are satisfied that your data has been safely removed, it is time to get rid of the physical piece of equipment. Of course some pieces of equipment will not have any data so you won’t have to worry about wiping the data first. Don’t simply throw it in the trash or a dumpster as it contains quite a few toxic materials!

Ideally you would donate the equipment to some sort of charitable organization that could benefit from your old equipment. You’ll have to do a little research to see which charities in your community accept used equipment as donations. If not a charity, maybe you have a friend or family member who could use it. Heck, maybe you can sell it on a site like eBay or Craig’s List and get a few bucks out of it.

Some computer manufacturers offer a form of takeback or exchange. This means the manufacturer will take the equipment from you and take care of the recycling of the components. In some cases, you’ll get a credit for turning in the equipment. Check with the company who sold you the equipment or the one that will be selling you new equipment to see if this applies to you.

The last option would be to find someone in the business of scrapping and/or recycling. These companies dismantle devices and sell the metals contained as scrap. They also claim to be safely disposing of anything toxic. As with anything, some companies play by the rules and some don’t. Again, you’ll have to research what companies offer this service in your community.

Last, but certainly not least, you are welcome to send any really good equipment to your favorite blogger. Happy Earth Day everyone!

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