There are many parts of the computer that can be hazardous to the environment in addition to simply taking up space in landfills. According to the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality, recycling and reusing electronic equipment reduces the amount of hazardous materials that may enter the environment. Recycling and reuse programs also reduce the quantities of electronic scrap being landfilled in the state. (Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality, 2007)
First it must be determined which computers can be reused. Computers that are less than five years old can be donated and reused. The older systems should be tagged for recycling. Older computers are often too obsolete to be used in many capacities. Computers that are not internet-capable can rarely be reused. Computers that cannot be reused will be sent to a recycling center to be broken down into their component parts and recycled. A computer that is not fully functional can sometimes be donated for educational purposes. (Computers with Causes, 2011)
It is best to go through a company that can refurbish systems when donating the items. The organization can determine whether or not a computer can be reused as well as handle any repairs and upgrades that may be required. The equipment can then be passed on completely ready to use at little to no cost to those in need. (TechSoup, 2008)
Computers that are to be reused must have their hard drives wiped of all sensitive data. If possible, the operating systems should be left intact, and if software is to be left on the systems, the original software media and documentation should be provided with the systems. This helps the new users ensure the software is legal and prevents the new owners from having to purchase expensive software to use the donated items.
To protect valuable corporate information, it may be best to wipe the drive entirely using one of the many choices of commercial software designed for this purpose. The software can then be reinstalled from the original media. When donating a computer, it is best to keep all accessories together with the computer, including the keyboard, mouse, monitors, and printers.
If a computer cannot be reused, it must be donated to a recycling center, where it can be remanufactured into a variety of reusable components and materials. Some of the parts can be reused and resold piecemeal, and other can be processed to recover their materials. There are companies that will take all equipment and determine which can be refurbished, which recycled, and then dispose of the remainder safely and properly.
Keep detailed records of both the hardware and software that was donated that includes where it was donated. Items that were recycled instead of donating should also be recorded. The record should include the fair market value of the items at the time of the donation. The company that accepts the donation should provide a tax receipt. The company can use the donation as a tax break per Section 170 of the Federal Income Tax Code. (Computers with Causes, 2011)
Under no circumstances should the items simply be dumped. There may be legal prohibitions against the dumping of electronic equipment. Items not accepted for refurbishment, donation, or recycling should be disposed of according to the local regulations. (Recycles.org, 2011)
Donating a system has multiple benefits, in addition to environmental concerns and tax breaks. Working through a charity that handles reusing, refurbishing, and recycling prevents the hassles of haggling over sale prices and trade-in values, and can be safer than attempting to repair the computer in house. The charity can provide a good-will benefit for the company. The disposal can also occur with a shorter time frame and at less cost to the company. Overall, donating a computer is easier, safer, and faster, and often even less expensive than other means of disposal.
Computers with Causes. (2011). Computer Donation – Donate Computer to Charity. Retrieved from http://www.computerswithcauses.org/
Lynch, J. (2008). Ten Tips for Donating a Computer. Tech Soup. Retrieved from http://www.techsoup.org/learningcenter/hardware/page5496.cfm
Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality. (2007). Computer recycling guidance. Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality. Retrieved from http://www.deq.state.ms.us/MDEQ.nsf/page/Recycling_ComputerRecyclingGuidance?OpenDocument
Recycles. Org. (2011). Donate Technology for Education . Retrieved from http://www.recycles.org/
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