How to dispose of a laptop?

In this short report we will discuss the question “how to dispose of laptops?” by highlighting some of the key steps that need to be understood before disposing of laptops. We will further discuss on how disposal of laptops in landfill is a threat to our environment. 

What are the components of a laptop?

Laptop has several assemblages as they carry out an array function and hence different materials made of different elements are used in the making of the laptop. Aluminum is used for its great strength while being lightweight. They also give a special glazing appearance to the laptop. The components of the laptop are made of assorted plastic materials, composites, semiconductors and metals. 

Each component is used for its specialized function that helps laptops to work at its best efficiency. Manufacturers are also incorporating bamboo based materials to deem their laptop as environmentally friendly. Aluminum is also completely recyclable and using recyclable parts is what most companies are opting for. 

Laptop also contains a high number of plastic materials to give it a lightweight because of the numerous components present in it. Other than this, several metals are also used such as copper, lithium, cobalt, gold, iron, lead, manganese, cadmium and the list goes one. The reason to include these lists is to make the reader understand how important it is to recycle laptops. 

If dumped in landfill these metals leach out to the underground water and there will be an ecological imbalance. Arsenic, cadmium, and lead are known to be highly toxic and can cause several types of health issues, even cancer. The 21st century is also dealing with lots of other pollution and hence an incisive decision is the need of the hour. 

Below table displays the list of materials that are used in the making of a laptop

Parts of a laptopMaterial used
Outer CasingABS Plastic, Magnesium alloy or aluminum
Display screenGlass or plastic
KeyboardPlastic or rubber
Base panelPlastic 
Top PanelPlastic
MotherboardHigh temperature reinforced epoxy resin
Hard diskAluminum or steel
RAMAn array of chemicals such as copper, boron, cobalt, tungsten etc.
BatteryLithium polymer
Hinges and screwsMetal alloys and steel
Optical DrivePlastic
WiresPVC and copper

Photo Courtesy: iStock. Computer and laptop cards

How to dispose of a laptop?

Laptops are becoming a necessity of our everyday lives. With the pandemic hitting hard in our lives, schools are shut down, people are starting work from home, and we are securely restricted to our homes. Hence, many activities are shifting to online mode increasing the demand for laptops and computer systems. 

Sales for personal computers have surged due to an increase in the number of at-home workers and learners during the pandemic and reached its highest in 2020 with over 302 million sales for laptops and personal computers. 

Thus it is equally important to take care of the laptop disposal as most experts suggest that the lifespan of a laptop is three to five years as the components of a laptop will not be efficient in running advanced applications. Due to the presence of many elements in the laptop that can cause harm to the environment, it is not safe to dispose of them in landfill. 

Before disposing of your laptop always make sure that you have taken care of the following steps.

  • Create a backup for all the sensitive information saved in your laptop.
  • Delete and overwrite the sensitive information using certain softwares such as File Shredder that is absolutely free.
  • Deauthorize your computer so that you can use the softwares on other systems as some companies allow limited numbers or installation.
  • Deleting the browsing history needs to be done before you give away your laptops.
  • If you are using business laptops, always make sure to follow company policy to dispose of laptops.
  • Uninstall all your programs, especially the bank apps that are used for transactions.

Responsible steps can be taken to dispose of the laptop in a safe manner. Government agencies have set up recycling centers for electronic wastes where these can be disposed of. Several NGOs and CSR initiatives have set up e-waste collection centers and drop off points to encourage proper disposal of e-wastes. For metro cities, nearest drop off points can be known from a quick google search.

The trouble of dropping e-wastes for some is also taken care of by providing door to door collection of e-waste where you can set up a time or set up a weekly collection of e-waste from your home. 

Is waste generated from laptops hurting our environment?

With most of the technology updating every year with new features and securities, people have a lot to choose from. As per a recent report from the EPA, the amount of e-waste that ends up in landfill accounts for 70% of the heavy metals. This amount is set to rise again as more people are forced to take up education and work from their home.

As discussed earlier, laptops and computers contain a large number of toxic elements which can harm our environment if left unattended. In some cases parts of laptops are burned which causes toxins to be released into the air, especially by the burning of plastics. Thus recycling is always the best alternative than any other method of waste disposal.

Photo Courtesy: iStock. Electronic waste

What are big tech companies’ contributions for an eco-friendly laptop?

Companies in many ways have portrayed that their products are eco-friendly by replacing some of the key features and making it more durable so that they can last longer. Lenovo ThinkPad L420 series has efficiently saved 40% of operating costs by using the post-consumer recycled contents for making the laptops. 

Tech giants and their products such as Apple are mostly made up of  aluminum so that these can be recycled efficiently. As aluminum is 100% recyclable with no downcycling, they provide a more eco-friendly option while recycling.  Apple has also contributed to the reduction of carbon footprint from the production of Macbook Air. 

The Asus Bamboo Series have used few bamboo parts in their laptop to include a renewable source of raw material and have put their share of going eco-friendly by substituting plant based raw material for packaging.

Conclusion

In this short report we have discussed the topic “how to dispose of a laptop?” by knowing the factors that affect the disposal of a laptop. We have introduced the components of a laptop and what is the best way to dispose of them. 

Frequently asked question (FAQs): How to dispose of a laptop?

How do you throw away a laptop?

Laptop should never end up in your garbage bin, instead there are recycling centers that take old laptops. But the most important thing that one should do is to prepare your laptop for disposal by doing the following steps.

  • Create a backup of all informations
  • Delete and overwrite the sensitive information 
  • Deauthorize your computer 
  • Deleting the browsing history 
  • For business laptops, follow company policy to dispose.
  • Uninstall all your programs.

Can you throw away an old laptop?

If you have a broken laptop gathering dust in the cupboard or when you need an upgrade, you will have to get rid of the laptop. The best way to do this is to send it to a recycling center that takes in old laptops and uses its parts for another purpose. This way you will make sure that such electronic wastes do not end up in landfill and cause inconvenient problems to our environment.

However, before you throw aways any of your information make sure that you have saved all your secured files and created a backup. Your hard drive contains a lot of sensitive information which you want to take out and process to create a backup before throwing it away.

Should I remove the hard drive before recycling the computer?

Yes, you should remove the harddrive before giving the laptop for recycling. Hard Drive contains many sensitive information that can be retrieved by anyone with specific softwares. Any sensitive information can end up in the wrong hands and create problems for you later. There are simple steps by which you can follow to erase the contents in your hard drive which are different for different operating systems.

How do you dispose of a computer hard drive?

When anything is physically broken you know it cannot be used later. Like that a broken hard drive, especially the broken magnetic disk will destroy all information contained in it. Physically destroying your hard drive is one way to erase the information from it. Another way is to use a data wiping program that can erase all the information from the hard drive . This way you can use your drive for other purposes.

How do I get rid of a laptop that won’t turn on?

The first thing that you can do is to check with the laptop or computer repair centers. They are specialized in this task and will help you if there is an issue that can be fixed. Some repairs will only require some damaged parts to be replaced with a new one, especially in cases where you have spilled milk or tea on your laptop.

Secondly, you can remove the parts of the computer and repurpose them for other items. Some parts also can be used for your current system or you can either sell these parts online. Finally, the best way is to give it to the recycling center where they will securely recycle all computer parts without hazarding our environment.

What happens to electronic wastes that are thrown in landfill?

Most of the electronic devices contain toxic elements such as lead, mercury, arsenic, and cadmium. These elements are linked to serious health issues such as damage to the central nervous system and in landfill these chemical leachates end up in groundwater or other water bodies thus harming the humans and wildlife on the earth.

References

https://gallerix.org/pnews/201510/osnovnye-materialy-dlya-proizvodstva-korpusov-dlya-noutbuka/

Daniel Mmereki, Baizhan Li, Andrew Baldwin and Liu Hong (June 29th 2016). The Generation, Composition, Collection, Treatment and Disposal System, and Impact of E-Waste, E-Waste in Transition – From Pollution to Resource, Florin-Constantin Mihai, IntechOpen, DOI: 10.5772/61332. Available from: https://www.intechopen.com/chapters/49247

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