Recycling Computer Parts


Recycling old computers and monitors, especially the toxic stuff, is a problem that is going to get bigger and bigger.     A recent report suggests we are not handling this problem very well, and I know from my local recycling experiences this is seems to be case here in rural Oregon.    Of the 2 million *tons* of old computer parts (mostly PCs and Monitors I assume) most find their way into landfills.    Some 300,000 to 400,000 tons of parts are processed through “recycling” facilities, but the latest scandal suggests that most of this material is then send overseas where it may be contaminating other countries.

I have not followed up on this story, so it is possible that it’s like some other environmental red herrings where the economic benefits to the other countries are so great and the risks so trivial we won’t be doing anybody any favors by closing down the business, but obviously this type of situation looks ominous.

Technology and toxics is yet another topic where reason must prevail over scare tactics so we can develop clear, clean and economical solutions to complex environmental problems.  For example compact flourescent bulbs, when broken, leave trace amounts of mercury.   I learned this a few weeks *after* I swept up a broken bulb on our porch, completely oblivious to the fact this was – technically – toxic waste.   Does this mean we should not use compact flourescents which offer huge energy savings?   No, it but it suggests we need new technologies and different rules for how to handle mercury cleanup to avoid making a nation of lawbreakers.  Perhaps a Gov’t approved “mercury cleanup kit” so schools and businesses won’t need to start closing when somebody drops a bulb.

About JoeDuck

Internet Travel Guy, Father of 2, small town Oregon life. BS Botany from UW Madison Wisconsin, MS Social Sciences from Southern Oregon. Top interests outside of my family's well being are: Internet Technology, Online Travel, Globalization, China, Table Tennis, Real Estate, The Singularity.
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7 Responses to Recycling Computer Parts

  1. emalyse says:

    I used to volunteer for a computer recycler and sadly an awful lot of equipment that was badly graded (by poorly qualified staff) was indeed just shipped to 3rd world countries (where it would probably just end up on 3rd world dump) which I always felt was just shifting the problem in an opportunistic and slightly lazy way but having said that it was hard to even give away to local charities who themselves demanded the very latest equipment.
    Really the original manufacturer should take their redundant product back (Europe’s own WEEE legislation deals with this but fails to fully ensure that manufacturers dispose of old product in an environmentally responsible way).

  2. emalyse says:

    I used to volunteer for a computer recycler and sadly an awful lot of equipment that was badly graded (by poorly qualified staff) was indeed just shipped to 3rd world countries (where it would probably just end up on 3rd world dump).Hopefully the pressure will be on manufacturers to make future products easier to dispose of responsibly.

  3. Randy Holcombe says:

    To the left of the story about the “Horrific” recycling was a story that terrorists had blown up another group of kids in Iraq. We need to understand what horrific really means. I have sent hundreds of computers off to be recycled in past years. Most of the equipment was working but just obsolete. Even if 25% of it ends up in a landfill in India instead of 100% here in the US, we have made progress. In the mean time, we need to stop using the over the top language to describe our less than perfect environmentalism.

  4. Joe Duck says:

    Randy re: Horrific. Yes, an excellent point. The “news” too often looks for a hook to get readers rather than the balance of rationality.

    it was hard to even give away to local charities who themselves demanded the very latest equipment.
    Really the original manufacturer should take their redundant product back

    So true emalyse – I’ve had this happen to me as well, and agree a good solution may be to build recycling/disposal into the initial purchase. This might be a good idea for any bulky items with short life spans.

  5. kalpesh says:

    nice info – and its seems to be a big problem — should be sorted out soon

  6. This blog Is very informative , I am really pleased to post my comment on this blog . It helped me with ocean of knowledge so I really belive you will do much better in the future . Good job web master .

  7. Cathy says:

    I just saw on Good Morning America that our computer parts are going to a 3rd world country dump where the kids go through the dump looking for copper. Some of these computers have asset tags on them from the EPA and other gov’t agencies…amazing.
    There is a danger of toxic gasses when these things are burned.
    This made me think twice about throwing out my monitor and the power box that went bad.I am looking for a place that will hopefully dispose of this stuff properly.

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