When the old computer has outlived its usefulness, it's time to consider finding a computer recycling site if there is nobody in your family or network of friends who would like to adopt your machine. Recycling computers keeps harmful materials out of landfills, not to mention reducing the amount of plastics which sit in the landfill for years without decomposing.
You can send your used computer for recycling if repair or donation of the computer for reuse is impractical.
Your computer will be disassembled. The circuit boards and hard drive will be removed, and possibly resold as parts. The raw materials such as plastic, metal and glass will be removed and set aside for processing or recovery.
Return to Manufacturer or Retailer
Several manufacturers and retailers offer special programs where they will accept old computers for recycling. The computers can be returned to a local store in some programs. Other programs require the computer to be shipped to a specific address. There is usually no cost to return the computer, however the cost of shipping may not be reimbursed.
While some programs do charge a small fee for recycling, the environmental benefits far exceed the cost of recycling. Regardless of any fee you might pay, recycling is hands down the best way to get rid of an old computer that cannot be reused.
Companies that Recycle Electronics
The following companies offer recycling programs. Whether you want to drop off your computer or send it by UPS, there may be an option in your region.
- Apple: Takes any brand of computer for recycling, not just Apple computers. If you live in Cupertino, California, you can drop off your computer at the recycling facility at no cost. In Texas, Oklahoma, and Virginia, Missouri, and North Carolina, you can also recycle your computer for free by filling out the online form. In other regions of the country, you'll have to send your computer to the California facility; call 888-638-2761 to request a shipping label and packing materials (for a $30 fee).
- Best Buy: Regardless of where you bought your computer, Best Buy will recycle it. All U.S. locations are open for recycling; simply bring in your old computer and let the staff know you'd like to recycle it. If you don't know how to remove the hard drive yourself, you can pay an employee at the store to remove it for you. There is no charge for recycling computers, although Best Buy charges a fee to recycle some monitors.
- Dell: Has made it incredibly easy to recycle your old equipment. Two free options exist for Dell computers: dropping it off at a Staples store, or calling FedEx to pick up your Dell, at no charge to you. Follow the recycling instructions online and call FedEx to make a pick-up appointment.
- Staples: Simply bring your old Dell computer to Staples and drop it off for free recycling. While computers of other brands are not free to recycle ($10 per monitor, laptop, computer, or printer), bringing in old ink cartridges is rewarded in the form of a $2 credit for each cartridge.
- Office Depot: You can recycle all electronics at once for a small fee. Purchase a recycling box (three sizes available for $5, $10, and $15 each), and fill with as many electronic devices as you can fit in the box. Bring the box, unsealed, to your nearest Office Depot location and drop it off for free.
Directory of Computer Recycling Sites
Over 1,000 municipalities offer computer and electronics collections as part of household hazardous waste collection programs. Public, private and charitable organizations also accept computers and arrange for donations, refurbishing and raw material recycling:
- Regional and state eCycling programs from the EPA: Offers detailed information about why electronics should be recycled and how to do it
- State-by-state listing of private and non-profit recyclers: Features a clickable map to search for electronics recycling options listed by state
- Recycles.org Non-profit recycling network: Can list your unwanted electronics to pass on to someone else or search for electronics to adopt and replace old ones
As an increasing number of computers and other electronics make their way into homes and businesses, the amount of discarded electronics in landfills grow. Donating your computer to a person or business is satisfying since it not only keeps your computer out of the garbage, but also solves a computing need. For computers too slow for reuse, recycling is the best option for both the planet and your wallet. You can help the environment by recycling your old computer and other electronic items.