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the real Recycle Bin

Proliferation • Conservation • Ethics

Recycling obsolete hardware is no Trade Secret - it's a self-evident necessity.  Computer technology is a "two-edged sword".

It performs the magic of moving, transforming, and storing enormous amounts of data at lightning speed.  Network communication can save forests of wasted paper, lakes of fuel to transport both the paper and the information written on it, improve business accuracy, reduce duplicate use of resources, and make information from around the planet instantly available.  There is a hefty price for these advantages.

Now that we can handle more data, we create more of it at an exponential rate.  Now that it's easier to write and send letters, those letters have increased mightily in length and quantity - but not in content or quality.  To the overwhelming number of books on every topic are added a vast number of books about computer technology.  The U.S. Postal Service delivers over 11 billion pounds of paper junk mail annually.  The speed of technology has increased the speed of life, the mega consumption of natural resources, and a virtual reality of endless diversions.

To top it off, most computer and cell phone hardware is made of a spectrum of extremely toxic substances, such as plastics, aluminum, cadmium, copper, lead, mercury, and other chemicals, at the expense of massive resources, fuel, and pollution.  Mountains of discarded hardware end up in landfills around the world, where these toxic substances leach into soil, surface water, and aquifers.

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Many companies now offer to recycle old hardware, there are laws against dumping it, and these developments seem promising; yet much of this hardware is sent to impoverished regions where it is piled up and burned to remove the plastics while hundreds of children scavenge the metals for resale, breathing a deadly soup of toxic fumes every day.  Contrary to the syrupy promotional material, this is not a better way to live.  (Here is a better way.)

The above are yet more reasons why we urge you to get the maximum "mileage" from your equipment through preventing and fixing problems, performance and functional tuning, and education.  It's also why we encourage you, and ourselves, to do these things inexpensively, with the least impact on our dwindling natural resources.

If you're just upgrading to new technology and the old stuff still works, please sell or donate it to someone who will use it.  Remember to remove your sensitive data.

When you recycle your old hardware, first inquire whether it will be sent overseas.  The only good answer is a definite "No!"

U.S. EPA eCycling resources


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