Where and How to Recycle Your Laptop – and Other Options

recycle laptop
Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / dokumol

The time has finally come to upgrade your laptop but you don't know what to do with the old one? Here's what you need to know about where and how to recycle your laptop properly and why it is so important.

What You Need to Know About Electronic Waste

Electronic waste does not belong in your regular trash can. Instead, collect it and find out how to properly dispose of it.
Electronic waste does not belong in your regular trash can. Instead, collect it and find out how to properly dispose of it.
(Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / Glavo)

In 2019, the US generated nearly 7 million tons of electronic waste–that’s roughly 46 pounds per person, as detailed in the Global E-Waste Monitor of 2020. E-waste includes anything from smaller electronic equipment such as USB drives, smartphones, and computers to household appliances like lamps, toasters, fridges, or dishwashers. Of all the items that were discarded that year, only 15% were documented to be properly collected and recycled, as stated in the report. This is highly problematic because, without proper disposal, the hazardous substances contained in e-waste are released into the environment, where they pose a serious threat to human and planetary health. Moreover, while broken or outdated electronic equipment may not hold much value for the end-user, it still contains precious raw materials that can be repurposed. Doing so not only reduces greenhouse gas emissions, it is even profitable.

Donating Your Device

As we increasingly rely on digital modes of communication to disseminate information and transfer knowledge, access to electronic devices is key.
As we increasingly rely on digital modes of communication to disseminate information and transfer knowledge, access to electronic devices is key.
(Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / sharpemtbr)

If your device is still functioning but it no longer fits your needs, try to pass it on to someone who could still use it. As a 2021 study by the Pew Research Center has shown, in the US, 41% of adults with lower incomes do not have a desktop or laptop computer. Donating devices that you don’t need anymore can make a real difference in the face of a growing digital divide.

Here are some ideas on where to donate your laptop:

  • Is there a community center, public library, school, or another institution nearby that you can gift the laptop to?
  • Does your workplace, school, or university have a donation program?
  • Many second-hand stores, including Goodwill, accept electronics donations.
  • Have you heard of the World Computer Exchange? It’s a global nonprofit organization that connects youth around the world to digital resources. There are many more, for instance, Digitunity, working to bridge what is known as the “technology gap”–empowering those with no or limited access to technological devices.

Selling Your Laptop

It may not be as bad as it looks: there are lots of tech-savvy people out there who may be able to reuse your laptop's parts.
It may not be as bad as it looks: there are lots of tech-savvy people out there who may be able to reuse your laptop's parts.
(Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / DoubleMcK)

Have you tried selling your laptop? Perhaps you know someone who would buy it from you and, if not, between Craigslist, eBay, and other platforms there are lots of online marketplaces where you can sell used electronics. Even if the device is no longer functioning properly or damaged, someone else may still be able to fix it or reuse the parts. You can also check whether the manufacturer has a buyback program or if you can sell it to a company that refurbishes old devices.

Is It Really Time to Say Goodbye? Recycling Your Laptop

If your laptop has no other use, make sure to recycle it in a way that is responsible and safe.
If your laptop has no other use, make sure to recycle it in a way that is responsible and safe.
(Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / magocarlosyo)

As stated by the EPA, recycling one million laptops saves the energy equivalent to the electricity used by more than 3,500 US homes in a year. Sounds good, doesn’t it? Here’s how you get started:

Prepare your laptop for recycling:

  • Save all important data via cloud services, on a hard drive, or by migrating it directly to a new computer.
  • Check your accounts and software: can you access everything from your new laptop? This is important because the licenses to some of your programs may not work on multiple devices, so you may need to de-authorize them on your old device first.
  • Wipe your disk clean so that your personal data cannot be accessed–not all recycling services you find on the internet are trustworthy, leaving your data on your laptop is not a risk you should take.
  • Today, many devices have built-in batteries, but if you can take the battery out, do so and check if they should be recycled separately. Lots of home supply stores have drop boxes where you can leave rechargeable batteries.

Where to recycle your laptop:

  • Find a certified electronics recycler: the EPA offers guidance on finding certified recyclers who meet strict standards to ensure that goods are processed in a way that is safe for human health and the environment, and seek to reuse and recycle as many materials as possible. You can also search for local recycling facilities on the web.
  • As noted above, there are lots of manufacturers and even retailers that offer buyback programs. Some of them, including Best Buy, also offer free recycling programs. Or you could check with local electronics dealers.

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