What You Should Know Before Recycling Old Technology - Arvig Blog
Pile of old technology, still-life January 10, 2017

What You Should Know Before Donating or Recycling Old Technology

Written by Darla Palmer-Ellingson in Home Technology for Your Home

When it’s time to upgrade your devices, you might think of dropping off the old model at your favorite school or nonprofit. The idea to reuse is a great one, but there are a few things to think about before loading your trunk with cast-off electronics.

Computers, cell phones and tablets have memories that may still contain your personal information, even if you have erased it. Unless equipment is less than five years old, don’t be surprised if the intended recipient graciously turns down your offer. Just because a nonprofit is low on funds doesn’t mean they want a slow computer running Windows 98.

There are options to donate or recycle old technology statewide, and plenty of reasons to do so. According to Jim Lynch, Director of Green Technology and Ariel Gilbert-Knight, Director of Content, both working for TechSoup:

– Donating is suitable for relatively new and repairable equipment.

– Seventy-five percent of the fossil fuels and energy used by a computer are actually consumed during manufacturing. Extending the computer’s lifespan through reuse means more return on    that initial environmental cost.

– Every computer dumped into a landfill represents a missed opportunity to provide technology and tools to individuals and organizations across the digital divide.

Lynch and Knight also offer the following statistics to encourage recycling tech that can’t be donated:

– End-of-life recycling is suitable for older or broken equipment. When you discard a 5-pound laptop, you are also throwing away the 20,000 pounds of raw materials it took to make it.

– Even if a computer, cell phone or device cannot be reused, recycling ensures that valuable raw materials are recovered from used computers and that any waste is disposed of in an  environmentally sound fashion.

– The University of Illinois Sustainable Electronics Initiative estimates that each PC or mobile phone contains over half the periodic table. Modern electronics recycling facilities can recover  most of these materials.

Minnesota Computer Recycling
Disposing of electronics in the garbage is illegal, yet technology does still end up in the landfills, causing toxic waste. The Minnesota Computer Recycling website contains information on how to properly and ecologically recycle computers, television sets, cell phones and other electronics. In addition to the information about protecting your privacy provided below, check the site to find out where to donate or recycle your electronics statewide.

Before you donate a computer:

– Remove and Store Hard Drives – Hard drives can be removed quickly from PCs being sent to recycling centers. Storing these hard drives securely takes little space and actually    preserves the data, in case it is ever needed. This option, however, still is subject to the stored drives being stolen and the data misused.

– Remove and Destroy Hard Drives – This is the most effective means of destroying data forever, but requires additional work. Hard drives store data on circular platters inside the drive.  If those platters are destroyed, the data is gone forever, and the drives can then be sent to be recycled. Any competent and trusted PC technician can disassemble drives and do the job.  Another alternative is to remove drives and use a secure shredding company to completely demolish the entire drive. If you use a shredding service for your business, ask them about hard  drive destruction.

– Delete and Wipe Data – If the PC will be reused or donated, sensitive data can be deleted, then wiped clean by software that overwrites the stored data, replacing it with nonsense  characters. This method can preserve programs and operating systems. Care must be taken, however, to make certain that all copies, including backup copies of data are deleted and wiped,  and that’s not always a simple matter. The DriveScrubber or KillDisk software can do this job.

– Completely Wipe All Data – Using sophisticated software, it’s possible to completely destroy all data on a hard drive, overwriting it until it is completely unrecoverable by any method.  The software is relatively inexpensive, or free, and works very well. The Department of Defense and other government agencies use this technique when decommissioning PCs. Once a drive is  wiped clean, it can still be reformatted and an operating system and other software reinstalled.

Before you sell or donate a cell phone, tablet or e-reader:
Make sure that all personal data, including account information is completely removed from the device.

– All handheld portable electronics include a feature that allows you to perform a hard or factory reset that returns the unit to the same state as when you purchased it and removes all data.  Hard reset techniques vary from device to device. To find out how to perform this function, check the original instruction manual or use Google, Yahoo, or Bing to search for “hard reset,”  followed by the brand or model of your particular hardware. Just follow the simple instructions and then check to make sure all personal data is gone.

– You should also remove any added memory chips or cards.

Whether you extend the life of useable electronics by making a donation or recycle your electronics to prevent valuable materials from going into the waste stream, using these safeguards will protect you while you protect the earth. 

Periodically throughout the year, Arvig offers free computer recycling to our customers—drop off your old or obsolete computer equipment at any Arvig store and we’ll dispose of it properly at no cost to you. Monitor recycling is available for a small fee. Follow us on Facebook to stay in-the-know.