Can Old Computers Be Recycled? Understanding Computer Recycling

February 3, 2021

Do you have an old computer that you need to get rid of? If you’ve grown up in the average household in Australia, you’ve likely had access to an old computer and are now likely looking to get rid of such equipment to make way for a newer, more advanced device. The big question is, can old computers be recycled?

The simple answer? Yes. 

However, old computers are made from various intricate parts and materials, most of which are required to be recycled or disposed of safely. Recycling your old computer is a huge step in making sure that the materials are not causing any harm. It’s important to understand the process of computer disposal and recycling to ensure you’re making the right move. 

Australians are among the highest users of new technology globally and it is estimated that we purchase over 2.4 million computers every year. This makes the waste that comes from electronics, including computers, an increasingly growing concern. Between 2016-17, 539,000 tonnes of e-waste were generated.

Ridly, Sydney’s leading rubbish removal company, are experts on computer disposal and e-waste removal. We’re here to break down the basics of “Can old computers be recycled?”, covering all aspects of the topic including how are computers recycled, is it safe to recycle old computers, why is it important to recycle old computer parts and how to prepare computer for recycling. 

Let’s start with the basics – an extended answer on “can old computers be recycled?”

Can Old Computers Be Recycled?

Yes! Recycling your old computer is one of the best things you can do to prevent pollution and contamination as you move onto your newer, more advanced gadgets. You can recycle your old computers through repurposing, donation, repair or reusing the old electronics. You can also have your computer recycled and disassembled by a recycling centre to safely dispose of all electrical materials. 

Electronic waste, or e-waste, refers to any item with a battery or plug that can be recycled. The electronic waste that can be safely recycled in Australia includes:

  • Computers and associated parts (including monitors, printers and keyboards)
  • Televisions
  • Consoles
  • DVD CD players
  • Smartphones 
  • Power tools 
  • Kitchen appliances
  • Hi-Fi systems

Can Old Computers Be Recycled to Be Repurposed?

If you want to recycle your computer but it is still in good condition, there are various ways to ensure your computer is repurposed!

Alternatives to taking your computer to a computer recycling facility include repurposing, reusing, repairing and donating. Reusing your computer includes selling, donating, or giving the old device to someone else who needs it, to avoid it going into landfill. You can advertise and sell the computers on Gumtree, eBay, Facebook Marketplace or the Trading Post. Alternatively, you can donate your old computer to a charity.

For the purpose of the rest of this article, we’ll be discussing the process of computer recycling to answer “can old computers be recycled?”

How Are Computers Recycled?

So, how can old computers be recycled? That’s a good question! 

How are computers recycled starts with understanding that not all computer parts can be recycled the same way. Unless you plan on repurposing or repairing your old computer parts, recycling old computers is essentially the disassembly and separation of all computer components and raw materials of the computer’s electricals. 

Generally speaking, old computers are sent to a recycling facility, where they can be safely pulled apart and recycled. The basics of how are computers recycled entails a simple process to separate the reusable materials. The hazardous materials are removed, and the materials such as printed circuit boards, cabling, glass and plastics are recovered and then processed to be used as raw materials to produce new products.

If we were to break up how can old computers be recycled, there are six distinct stages in the recycling process:

Step one:

First, all of the computers are sorted by hand, where batteries and copper are extracted for quality control. 

Step two:

From there, all items are shredded into pieces as small as 100mm to prepare the electronic waste to be thoroughly sorted. This is also the stage in which the data destruction is performed, ensuring that any data left on hard drives and memories are thoroughly destroyed. 

Step three:

The third stage involves a secondary size reduction. The small debris is shaken to evenly spread out the materials on the conveyor before they are broken down to even smaller particles. Any dust created in this process is safely disposed of in an environmentally-friendly way. 

Step four:

The fourth stage requires the use of an over band magnet. The magnet is used to separate and remove steel and iron from the debris. 

Step five:

From here, aluminium, copper and brass are separated from the non-metallic content. All metallic materials can then be reused and resold as raw materials. 

Step six:

The final stage is the water separation stage. Water is typically used to separate plastic from glass content. Once divided, all raw materials can be resold to be repurposed and reused. 

Is It Safe to Recycle Old Computers?

Yes, it is safe to recycle old computers, as long as it is done correctly at an appropriate facility. In fact, old computers are ideal for recycling due to their large volumes, the inclusion of hazardous materials, and good resource recovery potential for non-renewable resources like tin, nickel, zinc and copper. 

Under the National Television and Computer Recycling Scheme, companies that produce or import more than a threshold number of televisions and computers into Australia are required to pay for the end-of-life recycling of all electrical products. Under the scheme, there are four main organisations that recycle computers and accessories: TechCollect, Drop Zone, E-Cycle Solutions and Electronic Products Stewardship Australasia. 

Once the responsible recycling facility receives a computer, they will sort, separate, grade and prepare all parts to be de-manufactured. From the computer will be broken down into parts and separated by materials. Both glass and leaded glass can be safely and responsibly recycled at this stage in Australia. 

Any computers that are in working order can often be refurbished with new software and replacement repairs. These repackaged computers are then made available to low socioeconomic areas, community organisations or charity.

Why Is It Important to Recycle Old Computer Parts?

Every year more Australians are consuming more technology with millions of computers and related components purchased. In 2007-2008, an estimated 16.8 million computers and televisions reached their end of their useful life in Australia. This figure is predicted to be over 44 million units by the year 2027/28. 

So, why is it important to recycle old computer parts?

With such high statistics of mass technology consumerism, it’s important to take a conscious approach to how we’re disposing of old devices. Old computers, tablets, and smartphones that are thrown into landfill leak toxic materials into our soil and water, resulting in contamination and pollution. The most important reasons for recycling old computers include:

  • Computers contain hazardous materials
  • Old computers contain cathode ray tubes (CRT), which contains lead
  • When disposed of in landfill, the hazardous waste from old computers (lead, mercury, cadmium, arsenic) can leak and pollute soil and groundwater, causing harm to the environment and people

How to Prepare Computer for Recycling

While data is generally destroyed in the process of recycling old computers, it is still important to delete and remove all personal files to prepare your computer before recycling. If you’re taking your old computer to a recycling facility or having an expert rubbish removal service to take it for you, it is your responsibility to protect your personal information by securely and permanently wiping the data on your computer first.

In the case of an old computer or laptop, deleting files off your desktop or disk drive does not physically overwrite your data. You need to use specialist software and programs to completely remove data and prepare your computer for disposal. Depending on the make and model of computer, there are software, programs, and systems designed to completely clear your files to prepare the equipment for recycling.

Expert Computer Recycling Services

Chances are you’ve stumbled across this page while Googling “can old computers be recycled?”, which means one thing: you’ve got an old computer that you need to safely remove and recycle. You’ve come to the right place.

Not only are we here to answer all of your computer recycling questions so that you can better understand e-waste protocol, but we also provide the leading computer removal, disposal and recycling services in Sydney and Australia. Ridly’s computer recycling services take the hard work out of trying to find the most sustainable, environmentally friendly and affordable way to get rid of your old computer. We can safely remove and recycle your old computer parts, on the same day you call us out.

Rather than contributing to harmful landfill with the toxic substances that come from computer disposal, we focus our services on finding sustainable removal for all types of rubbish – including your computers. We work closely with the most innovative recycling centres in Sydney, to ensure your computers and electronics are safely handled and carefully disposed of. We don’t cut corners, and we believe in long-term sustainably. Call us on 0491 181 130 for a free quote on computer recycling services today.

Ready to be rid of it? Grab a quick quote from our team.

Call us on 0488 846 336.

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