Computers are used by everyone and anyone. From home users to specialized industries – all use computers. Infact computers are used even in schools.
The computer industry is one which is rapidly growing and developing. Computers get faster, more powerful and have the capability of more space than their predecessors. As a result of this, computers fast grow obsolete and everyone wants to buy the best computer in the market. This also means that there are a number of computers which are discarded and no longer of any use. Therefore, getting rid of old computers is as important as buying new computers.
Computer recycling is also called as e-waste recycling or electronic recycling. In this, the components are disassembled and separated. The ways of disposing of the computers are through various procedures : re-use of old computers, donating the computers to other institutions or people who would use them and repairing the computers for use or perhaps even upgrading old computers.
Reasons for recycling
When computers are recycled the major reason for recycling is the fact that these components are made of rare earth metals and precious or semi precious metals. All these metals are in limited supply. These have the capability of being used in new devices and recycled that way post being purified. This is called circular economy.
Recycling also helps the environment as harzardous waste including heavy metals and carcinogens including lead, mercury and cadmium get released into the atmosphere or into landfills or even water. A computer monitor has a cathode ray tube. This contains lead glass which has more than 6% of lead by weight. A 15 inch monitor is said to have upto 1 kg of lead and other monitors can contain upto 4 kgs of lead. The circuit boards too contain lead-tin solders. These are very dangerous and even though electronics are worth a fraction of the cost, the hazards of them being untreated and polluting the environment is enormous.
Another reason for recycling computers is that tin, silicon, iron, aluminium and plastic which are the components of computer systems can be recycled. Once recycled, the cost of the new computers created using these reclaimed materials can be reduced.
On the downside these waste materials are sent to counties with lower environmental standards. These generally are third world or developing countries and due to the poverty and lax regulations they are accepted by these countries. The workers in these countries scavenge whatever products can be used from these computers, sell those components and throw the rest away. This then pollutes the air, land and water of these developing countries.
There is also the question of data security. Incase hard drives are not properly erased, the critical and sensitive information stored in them can be misused. Information could include credit card details, financial data, account information, online transaction data. This is used by scamsters and those who want to commit fraud.
Computers need to be recycled but recycling should be done responsibly and in an efficient manner.