Recycling Computers Locally and On-Line

Recycling computers is an environmental essential.  Most computer components — including the monitor, keyboard, and hard drive — contain heavy metals, like lead and cadmium, which can contaminate drinking water and wreak havoc on human health. Even if they didn’t threaten our well-being, trashed computers and other electronics are the fastest growing sector of the waste steam. We’re throwing way too many computers away.

It doesn’t need to be so. Many “broken” computers can be repaired to extend their life; even if the entire computer can’t be saved, many parts can be recovered and re-used in another machine. My point: Don’t trash your computer; recycle it. Here’s how:


Every year, the nonprofit citizen’s group evaluates the efforts computer manufacturers are making to reduce the toxic chemicals in their products and increase recycling. Before you buy, review your options and pick the most environmentally friendly option that meets your computing needs.


 HP has a trade-in program that accepts products from any manufacturer and gives you cash back when you purchase a new HP.  Their recycling program accepts HP equipment for free, and other brands for a nominal fee. The company has earned the EPA SmartWay certification by reducing the fuel consumption, greenhouse gases and other air emissions of its surface transportation carriers.  Take note: HP has recently fallen on the Greenpeace Guide to Greener Electronics because the company says it will no longer honor a promise it  made to eliminate PVC and brominated flame retardants (BFRs) from their products by the end of 2009.

Dell has partnered with Staples to accept Dell products for recycling at all their locations. Dell’s exchange and trade-in program buys back old models of all types of electronics, regardless of manufacturer, and gives Dell gift cards to the customer in return.  Dell aims to reduce package size by 10% by 2012; achieve 75% curbside recyclability for packaging; and increase recycled content of laptop and desktop packaging 50%.  (I recently bought the Dell Studio Hybrid, which uses 80% less energy than a standard desktop hard drive and came in minimum packaging.) However, like HP, the company has backtracked on its commitment to eliminate PVC and BFRs in all products by the end of 2009.  In fact, Dell no longer has a timeline for eliminating these toxic substances – what’s it waiting for?

For any computer, search the corporate website for specific suggestions on how to recycle it.

Best Buy – Rather than hassle with a computer company, go to your nearest Best Buy. Why? “We’ll take just about anything electronic, including TVs, DVD players, computer monitors, cell phones and more. You can bring in up to two items a day, per household, and most things are absolutely free. However, there is a $10 charge for TVs 32″ and under, CRTs, monitors and laptops — but we’ll give you a $10 Best Buy gift card to offset that cost.” That’s a pretty good deal.

Goodwill – Businesses and consumers can donate computers to Goodwill for recycling. Check with your local Goodwill office before dropping equipment off.,, and – These sites also enable you to sell, trade or donate your computer rather than toss it in the trash. enables you to find more local computer recycling locations.


The National Cristina Foundation takes donated computers and matches them to charities, schools, and public agencies in need throughout the US and Canada.


Gazelle will pay you to recycle your e-waste.  Gazelle shows you how much your product is worth, sends you a box for free shipping, and upon receiving your product (assuming it is in proper condition), will mail you a check for its value.


Apple is the only computer company among the top five that has freed its products of PVC and BFRs.  With the exception of PVC-free power cords, which they are working to certify, this is Apple’s greenest accomplishment.   Apple recycles electronics for all customers who purchase a new Apple or Mac product from any of their online or retail stores.  Once purchased, you receive a voucher for shipping any old electronic (regardless of brand) via FedEx.  Fewer restrictions apply to educational or business customers, and for those recycling iPods and cell phones, none of whom have to buy a new product as a prerequisite to their recycling.  There are no drop-off sites for e-recycling at any Apple stores.

 How about a little more info?

Don’t miss this additional information on the environmental impacts of electronics.

Here are ten ways to make your computer more energy efficient.

Research by Katie Kelleher

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13 Responses to Recycling Computers Locally and On-Line

  1. Diane MacEachern August 26, 2010 at 7:59 am #

    You’re welcome. Thanks for writing!

  2. Brenda Bobrow December 13, 2010 at 11:41 am #

    Hi Diane,
    My husband and I have a home-based office and I’m trying to green it up a bit. I’m looking into getting something like this internet fax and getting rid of our old fax machine. I’ve heard that a lot of “recycled electronics” actually end up throwing some of the parts into landfills and since it’s not actually a computer I’m trying to recycle I’m afraid that’s what will happen. Is there a reliable source you’d recommend for electronics recycling (i.e., someone who actually recycles every part of the machine?) We’re located in Pittsburg CA and I’m willing to drive long distances to drop off the old machine. Anything you could recommend would be helpful. Thank you!

  3. Diane MacEachern December 13, 2010 at 11:58 am #

    Brenda, Thanks for being so conscientious. Does your county recycle electronics? They might be the most reliable source locally. You could also check to get local recyclers, then question them before you turn over your electronics to them. It’s so frustrating when businesses claim to do the right thing, but don’t. Let me know what you find out.

  4. tony November 29, 2011 at 3:52 am #


  5. Computer Recycling December 14, 2011 at 8:09 am #

    Do you know if there are computer recycling companies that will pick up your computer at no cost? I’ve heard that there are a few around. Any suggestions on where I should look to go locally?

  6. Diane MacEachern December 14, 2011 at 10:55 am #

    You can check; plug in your zip code to find the nearest electronics recycling companies. Or, take your computer to Best Buy, Office Depot, or Staples – they’ll easily recycle them for you. Remember to clean all the data off your hard drive before you turn your computer over.

  7. Ginger Yoder February 10, 2012 at 9:39 am #

    I am Co-Owner of Bluegrass E-cycle. We offer FREE e-waste removal to many states. I’d like to encourage you to check our services when looking to dispose of your electronic equipment in a responsible manner.

  8. Diane MacEachern February 13, 2012 at 6:34 am #

    Thanks so much for letting us know about Bluegrass E-Cycle, Ginger. Services like yours make it so much easier for all of us to do the right thing.

  9. Suzy Frame January 2, 2013 at 12:53 pm #

    This is such awesome news! I had no idea that you could even computer recycling memphis! Can you tell me where I can find more about it in Memphis! I know you can do it, I just don’t know where! Thanks so much for sharing!

  10. Diane MacEachern January 3, 2013 at 8:11 am #

    Try checking out Good luck.

  11. EmmaCay February 8, 2013 at 7:47 am #

    Wow, I had no idea trashed computers were causing to many problems. Its true every few years everyone upgrades their technology. Leaving behind computers. We could all be a little more careful when it comes to computer recycling in Nashville.

  12. Diane MacEachern February 12, 2013 at 6:50 am #

    You are so right! Thanks for the link to computer recycling in Nashville.

  13. Thanks for posting! I’m actually really interested in recycling and things like that, and I’m so excited they’ve started doing that for computers and electronics. One more step towards a green world!

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