running a green office

computer disposal

Knowing what to do with old computers is a big headache for small firms. Local authorities will not allow computers to go into general waste (for a start monitors use cathode ray tubes which contain lead) and disposable contractors are not generally interested in the odd computer, but want to deal with batches at a time.

According to Waste Online, two million fully functioning computers are thrown away each year. So consider whether a PC really needs to be disposed of in the first place. Re-use or recycling is always the preferred options and there are organisations that can help with this. Some organisations will make sure the PC is in working order, wipe out old data – this is crucial to security - and may replace non working parts and add basic software in a bid to squeeze more life out of your redundant PC.

However, if your PC is old even charities do not want to know. Quite simply there is so much old IT equipment around for them to bother with. Charities can be fussy and know that businesses update regularly so will only accept what is truly useful. If your old computer has less than a Pentium (or equivalent) processor you may have to think again. And not many organisations are interested in Macs, either. The answer is not to hang on to old hardware but to donate as quickly as possible. As soon as you have made the decision to upgrade make contact with organisations or charities.

If you cannot find a local recycling organisation to take a PC you might want to consider donating your old computers online at Donate A PC. (The organisation now makes charges). Otherwise you can find waste disposal contractors to dispose of computers but again this will cost. Companies can help dispose of VDUs, printers, CRT displays, floppy disks etc to ensure compliance with the WEEE directive. At present much of equipment collected in this country is stripped down with hazardous elements removed e.g. gas discharge lamps and lithium cells on the motherboards. The material is then separated and shredded and processed. Ferrous, non ferrous and precious metals are recovered from the equipment and sent for recycling.

The good news is that the new WEEE directive will see the producers of computer equipment themselves responsible for financing the collection and treatment of their products at their “end of life”. This should reduce the amount of waste going to landfill. The details on the WEEE directive are not yet finalised but once they are old IT equipment can be disposed of in a more environmentally friendly way. Under the WEEE regulations, due to come into force in 2007, retailers will be required to take back old unwanted computers whenever a new product is sold and put it through the appropriate treatment process. This will no doubt be reflected in the retailers’ hardware prices or delivery fees.

websites and links Envirowise website - look under the WEEE section. lists many charities and organisations that will take computers in your area and has guidelines on exactly what is wanted. you need to have 25 or more PCs to use this service. Digital Links International is a registered charity that provides fuss-free collection, certified data erasure and assumption of legal liabilities and has given 1 million people access to their first IT. this is a ‘matching’ service for individuals and organisations to donate their unwanted equipment to UK charities, not for profit organisations and educational establishments. It is ideal for those with just one or two computers etc to dispose of. Computer Aid International is a registered charity which recycles computer technology to developing nations, working with other organisations. this organisation helps provide computer services, support and training within the UK and overseas.

Contact Computer Resale companies in the UK are stores in the UK which operate independently. computers for the Disabled is a registered charity and non profit organisation, provides computers for disabled individuals and groups in the UK. gives useful information on how and where to donate unwanted computers. WasteOnline (Waste Watch) is a great site with lots of information on computer recycling, with a large list of recyclers organised by geographical area.


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