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
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.