What do you do with your old PCs? As Jonathan Skillings reports, the problem of computer junk has become increasingly serious, considering the ubiquity of computers nowadays and the fact that the average work computer has a life of only three to five years. Because computers are constructed using both precious and toxic metals, they are inappropriate for landfills. Even if you could find a landfill that would take your old computers, it's a labor-intensive process to separate the valuable from the dangerous.
The problem is that, while many talk about recycling PCs, few are actually doing much about it.
Some organizations sell or donate old computers to their employees. That's a worthwhile endeavor, but if you choose to do that, don't forget to wipe out all the data on your hard drives. If you don't, you may be releasing old documents and programs unintentionally. On the other hand, if you leave the drive intact on purpose, be sure to transfer the licenses for any software on the computer to the new owner.
You can also donate your old computers to a worthy cause. The agencies in this directory facilitate donations of used computer hardware to schools and community groups. Computer recycling organizations and charities also accept old computers. In addition, the National Recycling Coalition has some suggestions, as does Carnegie Mellon University. Those lists should help you get started.
I know of a few worthy organizations myself that I'd recommend right away. The National Cristina Foundation provides computers to the physically and economically disadvantaged. Computers for Youth gives computers and support to economically disadvantaged children and their teachers. And Tech Corps works to wire up schools.
Of course, there's more to computer junk than just computers. If you're like most people, you've received enough AOL invitation CD-ROMs to create an avant garde sculpture. Sure, they make good coasters, but don't toss them--once you've spilled one Cape Codder too many on any of your CDs or CD-ROMs, Plastic Recycling Inc. will recycle them. If your laptop's battery runs out of juice, the Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corp. can tell you what to do with it.
It's always worth looking for ways to better the environment, but it's particularly timely now, since Earth Day is this coming weekend. If you really want to make a difference, visit a local event. If you don't see information on recycling computers, volunteer to be a resource for your area. As someone who faces the problem at work, you're especially well-qualified to help out in the community.
You may not be able to save the world single-handedly, but you can make a difference in your own sphere of influence.
How does your firm dispose of its computer junk? Let me know in the TalkBack below.