The decrease in the lifespan of computers and the heightened
interest in upgrading to faster machines has created a national
disposal problem for used electronics, reports Kristine Hansen in
Milwaukee's alternative weekly, the Shepherd Express.
According to a National Safety Council study, at least 300 million
personal computers will need to be disposed of or recycled by
With high amounts of lead, cadmium, and mercury inside, computers are the most toxic of household trash. The dangerous chemicals can be released when they are dismantled or disposed of improperly, according to Hansen, and that can harm local air and water quality. Currently, about 10 percent of obsolete computers are recycled, with the remainder going to landfills or being stored in people's homes.
California and Massachusetts are the only states that have banned computer monitors from state landfills, says David Wood of the GrassRoots Recycling Network, and Wisconsin banned collection crews from hauling electronics in 1991. Still, many options exist for people trying to get rid of their old computers.
There are recycling drop-off centers and charity programs that take computers. One project in Wisconsin gives donated computers to prisoners, which they dismantle and then rebuild. Another Wisconsin-based business, Cascade Asset Management, refurbishes old computers and distributes them to nonprofit organizations. Also online is the National Christina Foundation (www.christina.org), which has a computer donation and request database.