Recycling Spotlight: Desktop Computers
Ever wonder what goes on behind the scenes at PC Pro? We say we recycle your old electronics, but what really happens? Follow us over the coming weeks to see what happens to each and every component in the devices you donate. Last week, we discussed laptop batteries. This week, our focus is on those big, bulky machines gathering dust in your office or garage: desktop computers.
Desktop PCs come in a variety of sizes ranging from just a few square inches to hundred-pound steel behemoths, but they all have similar guts. Major components inside desktop PCs include the motherboard, power supply, memory or RAM, hard drive or solid state drive, and a number of other common or uncommon peripherals. After a comprehensive test to identify any faulty or broken components, a thorough cleaning is typically required before we harvest the working parts to refurbish and sell. We use an antistatic electronics vacuum and electric canned air to get most of the hard work done. Trust us, once you use electronic canned air, you will want to dust everything in your home.
Not all of the working parts are usable right away. In many cases, the computers we receive store personal or professional data that must be properly dealt with. We always offer to return all personal data to the client on an external hard drive or thumb drive. In all cases, whether we find client data or not, we securely wipe the hard drives using industry standard data erasure standards to be sure that no data can be recovered. In some cases, this process can take several hours per device. If the hard drive is unusable, we simply disassemble it and separate the parts for recycling - passing the data platters of the hard drive over a strong magnet (a process caled dagaussing) ensures no client data is recoverable. Throughout this process, we use a dual-bay hard drive dock that you can see in the photo below.
Once all usable and recyclable components are removed, we are still left with a massive steel skeleton. Typically, these leftover computer shells still have some good parts, specifically the power and reset buttons, card readers and other small gadgets built into or onto the case itself. We even keep or sell the front bezel from each computer to limit the amount of plastic entering the waste stream. If a computer part could possibly break, and if someone might possibly want to fix it, we retain the part for our ever-growing inventory and expand our online store, which you can visit here if you're curious.
After all remaining parts and plastic are stripped off the case chassis, it is broken down with a hammer and crowbar, flattened into manageable sizes, and stored until we accumulate nearly a half-ton of scrap metal. Wondering how many computers it would take to yield a thousand pounds of scrap steel? It's anywhere from 50 to 200! We could use your help growing our scrap pile, so if you have a laptop or desktop to donate, no matter what condition it's in, contact us today and ask if we are running any promotions. You may be able to get a $10 Visa gift card or similar reward!
Once the entire process is said and done, the only parts left behind are several chunks of plastic. These are broken down into smaller, more manageable pieces and collected for later recycling. It can be very rewarding turning a giant hunk of metal and wires into useful, reusable and recyclable components. Every device donated contributes to a healthier environment and injects a small amount of money into the local economy and small business community.