Computers are now a major part of every day life in the 21st Century and as technology advances and prices drop, more and more computers and IT equipment are replaced on a regular basis leaving the question of what happens to the old ones. According to Waste Online, the market for refurbished computers has risen by 500% in recent years and yet less than 20% of unwanted computers are recycled. In the UK alone, around a million tonnes of electronic and electrical waste is produced and computer equipment makes up nearly 40% of this waste and up till now, a large proportion of it ended up in Landfill sites or was incinerated.
This poses a major threat to the environment and our health as computers are laden with toxic material and as such, are considered hazardous waste. Monitors for example, contain a lot of lead. New regulations have been introduced in order to limit the amount of electronic and electrical waste, which includes computer and IT equipment, ending up in landfill sites. Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Regulations 2006 The regulations came into force on the 2nd January 2007 and will be fully implemented from the 1st July 2007 and require that anyone manufacturing, branding or importing electrical and electronic equipment which came on the market after 13th August 2005 will be responsible for the safe and environmentally friendly disposal of that equipment. This means they will have to fund the cost of collecting, treating and recycling all electrical and electronic equipment and by the 15th March 2007 should have already registered with a compliance scheme in order to carry this out.
By April 2007 they must mark their goods with a crossed wheelie bin symbol meaning it must not be disposed of along with other household rubbish. So what options do you as a consumer have when you no longer require your old computer? Disposing of Computers If you want to get rid of an old computer or computer parts then you basically have a number of options: Sell it If your computer is in good working order then you could ask around for anyone who is looking for a low cost PC, or perhaps put an advert in the local newspaper or in your local shop windows. This way everyone wins as the computer is reused by someone else, you get something for it, and it doesn't harm the environment. Returning your computer to the manufacturer An increasing number of companies are offering a free return service for their old computers, (DELL for example), so you could possibly return the computer to the manufacturer, and many other firms specialising in the sales of computers may even take your old one when you purchase a new one so it is always worth asking.
Take it to a Recycling Centre You could take your old computer to an established waste disposal facility to recycle it. First you should check what they can accept and whether or not they will take care of removing files and personal data from the computer's hard drive. Even if your computer isn't in good working order, it can often be repaired and upgraded to the point it is useful for someone else.
If this is the case then it is wise to check beforehand that they comply with the Electrical Equipment (Safety Regulations) 1994 which requires that all the equipment must be safe to use. Donating your computer to someone else Most computers can be reused by someone else so another option is to donate the computer to a non profit organisation or an organisation specialising in the re-distribution of computers, possibly to schools or third world countries. If you have any software that you want to donate with the computer, try to get together all the relevant licences and supporting documentation.
An important point is to find out what will happen to the computer when it needs disposed of if, particularly if it may end up in a third world country as there is no point in protecting the environment at home only to pollute it somewhere else. Protection of Data A major concern when recycling computers is what happens to sensitive and personal data that could be present on the hard drive. Most organisations specialising in redistributing or reselling old computer equipment will ensure that your hard drive is reformatted and all personal data erased but you should always check that this is the case. If you are more technically minded you can, if you prefer, clean your computer yourself beforehand.
If your computer has been used for business purposes then under the Data Protection Act, all information collected by businesses must be destroyed when the storage system it was kept on (your computer's hard drive for example) is no longer being used by the business. Conclusion As responsible citizens we all have an obligation to make sure that our computer and IT related equipment is disposed of in a safe and environmentally friendly way. In order to be sure that this is the case, it is essential only to use companies and organisations that are fully licensed with the appropriate governing bodies.
Dave McEvoy is an expert in recycling and skip hire . For more information about skip hire in London , please visit Value Skips.