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Computer Recycling For Environmental Issues


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The IT production industry has a Large Carbon footprint, which can be reduced through the re-use and re-deployment of redundant IT equipment namely Computer Recycling.

We're all aware of the impact our use of scarce resources is having on the environment.
Two years ago saw a sudden and prolonged increase in the price of steel, copper and gold. These were brought about mainly by the rapid and somewhat unexpected growth in the Chinese economy. Why should this have any effect upon the recycling of computers you might ask? Depletion of non re-newable resources leaves only two options, find a new material (very expensive) or find a way to recycle and extract the old. With the Price of gold hitting $400 per troy ounce, it suddenly became extremely viable for recyclers, such as our selves to market our services. There's been a very big boom in computer recycling over the past year.

Most of the environmental concerns with computers lie with the monitor, specifically its cathode ray tube (CRT). Each color monitor contains, on average, four to five pounds of lead, considered hazardous waste when disposed of. Computers also contain other hazardous materials, including mercury, cadmium (a known carcinogen), and hexavalent chromium (shown to cause high blood pressure, iron-poor blood, liver disease, and nerve and brain damage in animals). Over 314 million computers were thrown away at the end of 2007, containing 1.2 billion pounds of lead, 2 million pounds of cadmium, 1.2 million pounds of hexavalent chromium, and 400,000 pounds of mercury.

Part of the problem computer recycling has is, after upgrading computer systems, most organizations store their old computers, which serve as backup equipment in case newer computers break down. These old computers often sit in storage well beyond their potential useful life. At some point, a decision must be made about disposal of this equipment. Continuing to store it is often not a viable option, it eventually takes up a considerable amount of space. The least desirable option is to throw old computers into the bin. Computer recycling comes to the fore in every scenario possible, not just the effect it has upon the environment, there is also the possibility of someone removing hard drives and recovering sensitive data.

A number of factors have led to an upsurge of interest in people wanting to recycle old computer kit, including growing awareness around environmental issues, as well as the recent introduction in the UK of the Waste Electronic and Electrical Equipment (WEEE) directive. (1 - June - 2006)

At the time of first writing this article the BBC News website had an excellent article about identity theft and the disposal / recycling of old computers and I quote from that article “Bank account details belonging to thousands of Britons are being sold in West Africa for less than £20 each, the BBC's Real Story program has found.

It discovered that fraudsters in Nigeria were able to find internet banking data stored on recycled PCs sent from the UK to Africa. "

This drives home the point that you should destroy the data on your hard disk - before getting rid of the computer or hard disk in it. Computer recycling, isn't always about the environment, but of company and national safety importance too.

From an environmental point of view it is far better to recycle your computer at an official recycling center than to dispose of it. It may even be illegal in some countries to dispose of electrical equipment by any other method other than by taking it to an approved computer recycling center or sending it back to the original manufacturer.

John Pettifer is managing director of a computer recycling company Recycling-IT. Due to his concern in environmental issues.


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