Electronic waste, or e-waste as it is more commonly known, is a huge problem facing both the developed and undeveloped world. Many old computer parts contain materials that are hazardous to the environment and burying your old Dell in a landfill is not helping the situation.
Instead of throwing it out, why not donate your old computer? One person’s box of outdated silicon is another’s treasure chest, and there are plenty of individuals, charities and recycling schemes willing to take your old machine away for free.
Your Local Donation Or Recycling Scheme
This one might require a bit of a searching on your part, but a local resource means you don’t have to drive far and the charity or organisation might even pick up your old computer themselves.
There are all sorts of local schemes throughout the world, and the best way to find them is through local government. Your local council or authority should be familiar with local recycling schemes or charities that take old tech and be willing to point you in the direction of some worthy causes.
Examples local to me (Melbourne, Victoria) include the Byteback scheme and Computerbank (cheap $30 PCs running Linux), and when I lived in the UK there were plenty of local charities and community groups willing to take in components, boxes and laptops for refurbishment.
Devised and established as a way of redistributing items that are no longer wanted or required, Freecycle operates all over the globe. This means you can join your local chapter and simply advertise your freebies (any non-living, legally saleable item) before whoever wants them comes forward to claim.
Freecycle uses Yahoo Groups as its main engine, so you’ll need a Yahoo account to give things away (though you can sign in with both Facebook and Google these days). It’s up to you who gets the goods and the claimant is responsible for collection.
Freecycle is a very environmentally friendly way of re-using pretty much anything you can think of and I can’t think of a single reason not to use the service!
When signing up for a Freecycle group on Yahoo, unless you’re happy to be emailed hundreds of times a day choose “Special Notices Only” for your email preferences, otherwise each and every offer will make its way into your inbox.
North America: About.com Donation Resources & EPA Advice
MakeUseOf is an international website with readers all around the globe, so I’ve split these next few resources by locale. About.com’s Women in Business section has produced a list of ten top donation and recycling organizations that are relevant to US and Canadian residents.
Included is the excellent Earth911 which searches for local businesses and partners willing to recycle or accept old machines, TechSoup, the World Computer Exchange (which annoyingly only has US and Canadian chapters) and Computers for Schools amongst others.
The EPA Advice link contains a few other resources and another facility for finding local recycling projects. Regardless of who you donate to, the resources on both sites are more than worthy of your unwanted electronics.
If you’re in the UK and looking to donate an old PC then you’re bound to find somewhere nearby on the IT For Charities list of links above. Included are links to companies, not-for-profit organizations and bonafide charities who will all take your unwanted computers away.
Computer Aid International are another charity who do especially good work with the donations they receive. The equipment is taken in, refurbished and shipped off to countries where computers and technology are not as accessible. Thus far the charity has sent nearly 200,000 computers around the world to help poorer nations get online.
There are also a lot of community workshop programs and local outreach centres in the UK that use old computers for all sorts of tasks, including basic IT training and charity work.
Australia: Recycling Near You & GiveNow Resources
Recycling Near You is an Australian website that will help you recycle virtually anything, including old computers, monitors and accessories. The website uses your location to deliver relevant results that are local to you, including both charities, companies and recycling schemes.
Whilst the aforementioned website is probably the quickest way of finding a local recycling centre, there are some very valuable resources on GiveNow.com.au. Each is separated by state and region, making it easy to find the right links.
Worldwide: Retailers & Manufacturers
This is by no means a golden rule that is upheld everywhere, but many manufacturers and even retailers will now take in unwanted electronic equipment. Computer manufacturers such as Apple and Dell both have recycling schemes where in certain countries they will accept any brand of waste and waive a fee (note you might still be charged for pick-up).
Retailers similarly offer recycling schemes, especially when new products are purchased. These sorts of schemes are popular with large items like refrigerators and ovens, but it might also be worth asking about computer recycling. A benefit to using a retailer like this is that they will often come to your house, remove the equipment for you and swallow any recycling costs that may apply.
Whilst many international and national laws state that these products must be recycled responsibly, don’t forget that this isn’t quite the same as donating to charity.
There are plenty of charities, organizations and companies who will accept your old computers to prevent them ending up in a landfill somewhere, so the next time you get rid of a PC or monitor don’t forget to look up both local and national schemes. By recycling or donating to a good cause you can feel great about helping someone out and even better about the fact that your old kit isn’t sitting in a landfill.
How are you going to get rid of your next PC? Any other resources we should know about to donate old computers? Have you recycled a PC before? Let us know in the comments.
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