Computer recycling: steps, advantages and disadvantages

E-waste is one the biggest headache, the World is facing now. When the technology has developed and people have become hi tech, the waste they abandon seems to be piling up. When everyone started switching from desktop to laptop and to tabs, mobiles to smart phones, the old ones they leave behind are increasing day by day. Thus we shall look into how we can recycle computers and the steps involved in it with its advantages and disadvantages.

As the word suggest, computer recycling is the process of reusing the old or scrap laptops and computers by reprocessing them. The major components of a computer like motherboard, monitor, keyboard, central processors, screens, and mouse are recycled by reprocessing them. Most of the computers are made up of mercury, lead, cadmium and chromium. A lot of procedures are to be followed in the making of a computer which is expensive. So recycling them saves a lot of resources, money and energy.

STEPS IN COMPUTER RECYCLING

  1. Collection :
    This is the first step in computer recycling. The old and scrap computer is collected from the owners or landfills and taken to the recycling centers. Computers are even collected from collection centers.
  2. Sorting :
    The collected computers are sorted manually according the type of materials used and the models.
  3. Testing :
    After proper sorting, they are tested to find out whether they can be reused and recycled. If the computer or the laptop is in a working condition, it is serviced and upgraded to latest higher version and then sold at a second hand rate.
  4. Manual separation :
    After sorting, if the computers cannot be upgraded or services, the important components are taken like circuit board, speakers, hard disk, speakers, keyboard, DVD drive; graphic cards and so on are removed and sold to second hand retailers for refurbishment. Sometimes the whole unit is dismantled and sorted into plastics, metals, non metals and so on. The hazardous material like cadmium, barium and mercury are carefully removed. The batteries are also removed and taken to battery recycling units.
  5. Data is destructed :
    The entire data in all hard drives are removed in a ten ton process. This is mainly done to ensure that all data in the computers is erased. Thus the computers are as good as new ones.
  6. Separation of other materials :
    Other materials like circuit boards, plastic shells and wires are removed and broken down. Then it is passed through screening techniques to remove precious metal like silver, copper, iron and gold. This process is commonly called smelting.
  7. Reuse :
    So thus all the materials recovered in this process reaches secondary recyclers for the manufacture of new products. Metal goes to metal recyclers and are used to make new metallic materials. The plastic goes to plastic recyclers and are used as raw materials for making new plastic.

ADVANTAGES OF COMPUTER RECYCLING

  1. Reduces pollution : recycling of computers can reduce pollution to a great extend. As all these are non biodegradable, it would be a hindrance to the environment and the biodiversity.
  2. Prevents wastage of resources : due to the recycling of computers, new resources are less utilized for the making of new computers and laptops. The internal components can either be reused or reprocessed to make new ones. Other parts like plastics and metals are reused and send to respective industries for recycling.
  3. Creates job opportunities : a lot of job opportunities are created in the computer recycling industry. Right from collection of scrap and old computers, sorting, taking materials to other recycling industry, servicing and assembling of new computers and so on. More jobs mean increase in the standard of living of the people. This induces overall economic growth.
  4. Reduces landfills : most of the scrap computers are dumped in the nearby landfills. If computers are recycled, the amount thrown away in the landfills reduces considerably as they are taken to the recycling units.
  5. Affordable : computer recycling is an affordable and profitable business. Most of the components and parts of a computer and laptop can be reused, reprocessed and recycled. Many other recycling industries like plastic recycling industry and metal recycling industry is benefited in the process. Thus computer recycling is affordable. Since these reprocessed, these computers are available at cheaper second hand rates. So thus more and more computers are available in the makes which makes it affordable for more and more people.
  6. Reduces greenhouse gases : if these computers are dumped, toxins like lead, mercury and cadmium gets mixed up with the soil thus contaminating it. So recycling reduces this. Some of the parts are even burned in the landfills causing emission of greenhouse gases that can further worsen global warming and drastic change in climate.
  7. Conserves energy : computer recycling uses less energy and resources as compared to making of new ones. Recycling helps in conserving energy and helps in minimizing the use of renewable and non renewable resource.
  8. Pocket money : here there is an option to sell off old and unused computers directly to people doing recycling business. This is an additional income to the people selling scrap computers.

DISADVANTAGES OF COMPUTER RECYCLING

  1. Soil contamination – even though computers are recycled, the toxins like lead in the CRTs and mercury in the flat panel screen gets mixed with the soil causing contamination. This can cause serious harm to the environment as a whole.
  2. Pollution – mostly all the components of a computer can be recycled. Many other materials are taken to different other industries where they are recycled. Many types of fumes are emitted during the recycling process. This causes severe pollution which affects the natural life cycle.
  3. Health problems – due to pollution, a lot of health problems persist like lung cancer, respiratory disorders, eye irritation, skin disorders and so on. All these are due to the contaminants of recycling. The long term effects of these pollutants are yet to be known.
  4. Second hand quality – in the recycling process, most of the materials used is low quality that is reprocessed to make newer ones. So the quality of the computers cannot be judged. No guarantee is given to such second hand low quality computers. At times people end up buying second hand computers at low rates but they are forced to spend again on its maintenance. So thus quality assurance is nil in computers recycling.
  5. High labor cost – a huge cost is incurred in recycling of computers. A lot of manual work is involved in the process which increases the overall cost of recycling. It cannot be sold at a higher rated because most of the materials used are either recycled or reprocessed. Thus, computer recycling is not much a money making business.

To conclude, computer recycling has a lot of merits and demerits. Taking into the account the benefits, it is advisable to reuse and recycle computes so as to save the environment from further pollution. Thus, computer recycling is the best method to save mother earth from e-waste and its pollutants.