How to recycle your old computer

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These days, it often seems like technology becomes obsolete within days. This year’s powerhouse video card may be sufficient now, but they might not be able run next year’s killer apps with much in the way of gusto. So if you want to stay current, you’re going to end up having to upgrade your hardware or even your entire rig on a regular basis. But what to do with all your outdated components? You likely don’t have a lot of storage space, and it’s only a matter of time before all those old graphics cards and desktop towers start bursting out of your closets.

But you can’t just “throw it away.” Some of these parts are hazardous to the environment, and need to be disposed of properly. In fact, environmentalists often point to e-junk as one of the next big concerns for our planet. According to the EPA, discarded electronic waste now makes up more than 2 million tons of our total waste, and that number is only growing. Considering electronics often contain elements such as lead, mercury, nickel, and cadmium, e-waste has a noxious effect on the environment if disposed of improperly.

Here’s another thing to keep in mind: some e-waste actually is still useable. Rather than throwing away your old computer parts, the ecologically responsible thing is to recycle them. Thankfully, there are quite a few ways to go about recycling old hardware, all of which can help stymie the growing problem of e-waste

Old hardware, new uses

While you may want to keep your computer armed with only the most powerful hardware, there’s no reason you can’t make use of parts you replace. Obsolete is not the same as broken, and with a little ingenuity you can get a lot of mileage out of spare parts. If you find yourself with a lot of parts on hand, you can cobble together a basic computer to use as a home file server. A functional home server doesn’t require high-end parts, and it will provide you with abundant file space to store any data you have. It is possible to find some uses for nearly any individual piece of hardware, too. You can convert an old internal hard drive into an external hard drive, for instance, with an external enclosure.

If you want to get really creative, you can do a lot more with old parts than simply find new ways to incorporate them into your computer. By combining old fans, for example, you can construct a makeshift air filter. You can even use hardware to make art pieces or DIY projects, such as digital pictures frames made from old computer monitors. With a little creativity and an aesthetic appreciation of wires and circuits, you can use these old parts to create furniture and paraphernalia with a cyberpunk style.

A lamp made from an old iMac
A lamp made from an old iMac

Of course, not everyone will have the time or desire to use their old computer parts for arts and crafts. That’s not a problem, though, as there are plenty of people and organizations that can find a use for them. Before handing your computer off to someone else, however, there is an issue of security to deal with.

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