Don't Throw it in the Dumpster: How to Donate or Recycle Your Old Computer (Hypertext Student Newsletter)

This story written by Suzanne Beck, Senior, History, was originally published in the Spring 2004 edition of the Hypertext quarterly student newsletter. Go to http://scg.ucdavis.edu/hypertext/2004spring.pdf to view a downloadable PDF of the entire newsletter.

Electronic waste is a big issue these days as thousands of computers become obsolete annually and consumers upgrade to slicker and speedier products. Because many computer monitors contain a cathode ray tube (CRT), which carries lead and other toxic substances that can pollute the environment, you shouldn't just toss your computer in the dumpster when you upgrade to something new. So what are your options?

Donate it
If you have a relatively new computer, consider donating it to charity. Find a neighbor, school, church or other organization in need. You can also donate your computer through a nonprofit organization such as the National Cristina Foundation (NCF). Fill out a donation form online at www.cristina.org and the NCF will arrange for pickup or drop-off with a local charitable organization.

Trade it in
You can also trade in your computer and receive money towards an upgrade. At Hewlett-Packard (www.hp.com/unitedstates/tradein/), you can trade tradein in any computer product or brand and upgrade to Hewlett-Packard or Compaq products. They provide a free online quote and free shipping for your old computer.

Recycle it
If your computer is too archaic to be of use to others, try recycling it locally or with a computer company. The Yolo County Central Landfill northeast of Davis will recycle your CPU and keyboard for free. The landfill charges $12-$18 to recycle monitors, depending on the screen size (for directions and additional information, visit www.yolocounty.org/recycle/crt.htm). companies like Dell and Hewlett-Packard also provide recycling services (Apple does not currently have a computer recycling program). For a small fee, such as $5 with Dell, the company will come pick up your junk and cart it away. For prices and shipping information, visit www.dell.com/recycle/ or www.hp.com/hpinfo/globalcitizenship/environment/recycle/.

But first...clean up your hard drive
Before you let your computer leave the safety of your bedroom, protect your identity by removing all personal data from the hard drive. Free downloads are available for PCs that will overwrite the disk, such as PC Inspector e-maxx (www.pcinspector.de/emaxx/uk/welcome.htm) or Eraser (www.heidi.ie/eraser). For Mac OSXs, use the "Secure Empty Trash" command to permanently remove all traces of deleted files. Mac users may also use the more robust SuperScrubber software, which is available for $30 at www.jiiva.com/superscrubber/. Do your part to reduce electronic clutter in your life and protect the environment by handling your e-waste responsibly.