Nearly every week someone asks me what they should do with their old electronic equipment and for many years I would tell them to smash it up, run it over with their truck or car, melt it down, or any of a dozen or so demises I have employed over the years but the bottom line was always, “then throw it in the garbage.” As an environmentally concerned citizen, I am officially appalled at my actions. I, of all people, should have known better, even in the early days, but I did not.
Think of the number of people who will be receiving new smart phones, laptops, tablets PCs and other new electronic equipment for Christmas and what to do with the old stuff? One cell phone or motherboard is really not a big deal but if you think on a global basis and consider we may be talking about 100 million cell phones, motherboards, hard drives, laptops, monitors and everything else under the sun that uses cadmium, nickel and mercury, people, we have a problem!
Some environmentally conscious companies in America have bans against shipping parts overseas whether they are in whole or parts while others routinely ship parts and electronic waste to companies overseas for disposal. Even though our regulation of electronic waste leaves a lot to be desired, we are still light years ahead of Manila, China and other countries receiving these types of materials for disposal.
If you still think this is no big deal, consider that all of the chemicals listed below are used in the manufacture of electronics and consider the abnormalities associated with them:
Do you still want to throw that hard drive in the trash? What do you do with this stuff to make sure your personal data is not at risk and you are still being friendly toward the planet without putting yourself out too much? Hard drives store the most amounts of personal data and need the most secure disposal. I recommend a number of different disposal techniques;
• If you have access to a head demagnetizer you can run the hard drive over the demagnetizer a few times and all data will be permanently and totally erased. The hard drive will be non-functioning afterwards.
• Take a sledge hammer to the hard drive and smash it up into tiny pieces, then recycle the pieces. This technique gives you satisfaction that you have destroyed the source of years of frustration and also provides an environmentally friendly recycling of your hard drive.
• There are software programs available that wipe the hard drive completely clean and are safe to use prior to recycling.
Recycling centers are located all over the Valley as well as some non-profits. Do a Google search for electronic recycling centers in Phoenix and you can find locations. AZStRUT (www.azstrut.org) is a non-profit that puts your old, unwanted electronics in the hands of high school and college students studying computer repair and helps them receive real-world experience, then they donate your computer to needy families. I personally have been in partnership with AZStRUT over the past 15 years and can assure their integrity. Your old data is stripped and cannot be retrieved. If your electronic gadget is too old for repair, AZStRUT recycles it with WesTech, one of the Valley’s recycling centers and AZStRUT receives a few dollars from the precious metals to continue their work.
Whatever you decide to do with your used and unwanted electronics this year, please be mindful of our children and future resident of this planet and recycle your old equipment.
Mike Smothers is president of Smothers Computer Services, based in the Ahwatukee Foothills. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or call (480) 753-7667