Throwing away computers

All of us use computers. All of us reading this blog post, that is. Being responsible for what you use, from start to finish, means that your work isn’t done when you’ve finished using a computer – even though the computer itself is finished. This blog post will give you pointers on how to become a responsible consumer, and give your electronic device the resting place it deserves. 

A friend of mine recently became the owner of a useless laptop, whose Windows software wouldn’t even start properly. The proper disposal of the machine intrigued us, and together we came up with a plan that would hurt the environment in the least way possible and give people a chance to re-use the gold and precious materials in its workings. We were also worried about the safety of the personal data stocked on the laptop, so most of these steps involve permanently wiping any information.

#1. Back-up files. If the computer still works, back up all the files, then delete them. Sadly, this was not applicable in our case. But if you still have a running computer, then this is essential if you want to save your data.

#2. Wipe the hard drive. Deleting is good, but not permanent. Formatting is also good, but the data will still be retrievable in the hard drive. In order to be sure that all the information is gone, you need to wipe the hard drive. This step is important because you might have e-mail passwords, credit card numbers, or other personal items on the hard drive.  Again, this is only applicable if your computer is able to run. There are several programs online that offer disk-wiping services, but we haven’t tested any. We recommend that you call after-sales service to ask how to proceed.

#3. Call after-sales service. Companies are starting to use after-sales service more and more, and it makes sense: you’re responsible for what you produce when you sell your product, so you should be responsible for the trash your product makes when its working life is over.  So, after calling after-sales service for this computer’s particular manufacturer, they told us to . . .

#4. Destroy the hard drive. Open up the computer’s back-side panel, remove the mother-board and localize the hard-drive (which might be in a metal casing, as it was in this case) and hammer it. We destroyed the mother-board too for extra measure.  This step is not necessary if you succeeded in wiping the hard drive.

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Destroying the hard drive

#5. Donate or recycle. If you’re not sure where to donate, try your local church, synagogue, or other religious community. Even though you might not be affiliated to a particular religion, people in these associations are often involved in charity projects and would be happy with your help. If the computer is dead, like ours is, take the computer to a place that collects used electronic devices for recycling, or back to the manufacturer if they have that sort of service.  One person’s trash is another person’s treasure, they say.

(In this case, it is very much true, because computer workings have precious metals such as gold, and rare metals such as terbium, whose scarcity causes wars in Africa. By recycling your computer, you’re helping to put these metals back into circulation and back on the market, which is positive for the community, the environment, and ultimately, you.)

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