Computers are high in recyclable content, but you need to know where to look. Unless your recycling center specializes in computer recycling, you may be throwing away valuable materials for the cost of basic electronic materials. Consider a few recyclable and reusable components before throwing those old computers to the side. Some may not be as old as you think.
What Parts Can Be Used Again?
Not all "old" computers are useless. If you're in a business with forced upgrade requirement or have already committed to an upgrade that doesn't seem necessary, your previous systems may still be more than good enough for the general populace.
You could donate some of the systems to charities or schools to enhance computer use and knowledge, but it may be worth your time to remove a few components for future repairs and replacements. Computers within five years of each other may share components, barring major paradigm shifts in computer component industries.
Take a look at a few components to understand what can be pulled out for storage.
- Hard Drive. The hard drive is the main storage for computers, used to store all files and applications on the computer. It even houses the operating system, which is the environment you click and type within while using the computer.
Hard drives can often be swapped out easily, as there are only two major standards in use. The old system of Parallel ATA (PATA), also know as IDE, is still used in legacy systems. They're slower than the newer Serial ATA (SATA) drives, but the speed is only recognized by computer enthusiasts and computers that act as business backbones. If there is important information on the drives, hold onto them.
- Memory. Memory is used to store the most commonly used files for quick access. Instead of searching across the entire hard drive, which can be quite slow, depending on the size, a computer can pull from the quick memory slots.
Memory follows a standard called Double Data Rate, with DDR3 and 4 being popular in the world as of 2015. DDR4 has not yet completely phased out DDR3. The standards can be recognized either by labels or the physical notch location, which stops accidental mixing of memory.
Salvageable Metals And Compounds
Computers are still sought after for their recyclable components. Although many computers have less steel in their chassis than in past decades due to the affordability and easily designed surfaces of plastic, there are a few metals to look out for.
Many electronic components inside the computer use gold contacts for transferring data. Gold is a good conductor of electricity, and data is passed in the form of electricity. Tungsten may also be used, and there may be some copper contacts in place as well.
Copper and aluminum are often used for cooling systems, but you can find an even more valuable metal inside the hard drives. Hard drives contain rare earth magnets, which can fetch a nice price if you have a lot of hard drives that don't have reuse potential. Turning in a hard drive to a recycling center that doesn't know (or doesn't admit to know) about computer recycling may result in a lower, unworthy prices.
Get in contact with a recycling center or company like STS Electronic Recycling that supports computer and electronic recycling.