What to Do With Old Hardware – An Open Discussion
You can find tons of different pieces of hardware in just about every household these days. The spectrum ranges from small devices such as laptops, smartphones, or tablets to tower PCs, computer monitors, and televisions to the right large devices such as washing machines, dryers, and refrigerators. As different as all of the hardware mentioned may be, they always have one thing in common. At some point, it will have reached the end of its life or it is simply technically out of date.
Hardware is becoming increasingly short-lived
The latter also happens at ever shorter intervals, which is particularly evident in the area of smartphones. Manufacturers are throwing new models onto the market in ever shorter development cycles, which in turn makes many older models of no interest to users. This development is of course fueled on the one hand by the insane speed with which new technical innovations are being driven to market maturity, but on the other hand at least to the same extent by clever advertising and an increasingly stronger “must-have” mentality in our society.
But where should you put all that old electronic waste? What is the most convenient way to get rid of your old hardware and countless devices without causing unnecessary damage to the environment? Are there perhaps even smarter alternatives to conventional recycling?
Today we would like to openly put the most important questions about computer recycling up for discussion. What are your personal experiences? What is your opinion? Let us know in the comments at the end of this post!
23kg of electronic waste per year per citizen
There is much more to the term electronic waste than just the smartphone or the computer. By definition, the term includes all large and small electrical appliances from the household, entertainment, information, refrigeration, and air conditioning sectors. Recently, this also includes furniture or clothing with electronic components, such as flashing children’s sneakers or bathroom cabinets with integrated lighting.
For example washing machines, electronic heaters, toasters, refrigerators, and air conditioning systems, but also computers, laptops, video game consoles, telephones, smartphones, and energy-saving lamps. In a normal average household, that adds up to a lot.
In this article, we have already briefly dealt with the topic of electronic waste and the associated disposal problems. For example, according to statistics from 2017, every people produces a whopping 23 kg of electronic waste every year.
The correct collection of these devices is extremely important so that this gigantic amount can be properly recycled. After all, the numerous components contain valuable raw materials, such as copper, nickel, or even gold and platinum, which can be recycled.
3 ways to properly dispose of old hardware
The general rule is: old hardware from computers, laptops, old smartphones & Co. does not belong in the household waste! On the newer electronic devices, you will even find the symbol of crossed-out garbage can directly on the device. The manufacturers are obliged to dispose of the old devices. This is prescribed by the “Electrical and Electronic Equipment Act “.
But what’s the most convenient way to get rid of your old devices and still make sure that everything is recycled properly? 3 quick and easy ways.
Option 1: Hand it in at the recycling center
Large devices such as (tube) monitors, televisions, etc. are classified as bulky waste, which you can register and – depending on the municipality – have picked up. Most recycling centers also accept computers and laptops. Mostly even for free. As an alternative to picking up, you can of course also hand in your electronic waste and bulky waste yourself at the local recycling center.
Most cities and municipalities have a free quota of two bulky waste appointments per household and year per household. Additional costs may be incurred for further disposal, depending on the municipality. A quick phone call to the city or local authority will clarify the situation.
Option 2: return by post
Deutsche Post also offers a service to hand in electrical devices free of charge. This service is called ELECTRORETURN and is an extremely convenient way of disposing of small electrical appliances. The only restriction: they must fit into a maxi letter (35 x 25 x 5 cm) and must not weigh more than one kilogram.
The offer is therefore primarily suitable for old cell phones, smartphones, and printer cartridges.
Simply put the old or defective electrical device in an envelope, print out the free stamp here, stick it on and throw it in the nearest mailbox or hand it in at the post office. This ensures that the devices sent in are taken to a professional recycling company.
Option 3: drop it off in the shop
Electronics retailers have had to take back old devices free of charge since 2015. This applies regardless of whether the device in question was purchased from this dealer or another dealer. Smaller devices with an edge length up to a maximum of 25 centimeters must be accepted by the retailer again without restrictions, larger devices only if you buy a new device at the same time. You can also bring your devices to the nearest dealer around the corner.
But here, too, there is the famous exception that confirms the rule: the whole thing only applies to retailers with a sales area (retail shop) or a storage and dispatch area (pure online shops) of at least 400 square meters.
How is this continuing?
All 3 options have one thing in common. In the end, your device ends up at a professional recycling company. But what exactly is going on there? How does such a recycling cycle work?
The recycling cycle
The entire recycling process of electronic waste such as old computers, smartphones, or laptops should ideally look something like this:
- Collection of the old devices
- Collection by specialist companies
- Manual pre-sorting
- Removal of toxic components (old batteries, accumulators, etc.)
- Shredding the leftovers
- Automatic separation of the individual metals
- Melting down aluminum and iron
At least that is the theory or what the public likes to demonstrate. But what happens outside of the cameras? Despite the close-knit controls and regulations, smaller and larger scandals keep the effectiveness of our recycling systems in doubt.
What do you think about it? In your opinion, are our systems sufficient or do they urgently need to be improved?
Illegal recycling in Africa
At the same time, another important point is addressed in the video. By far not all devices are properly returned to the recycling cycle. The damage to the environment through improper recycling in Africa is obvious and can hardly be denied. Here in the industrialized countries billions of euros are generated by the law, at the expense of people and the environment in poorer regions of our earth.
“Not disposing of” old hardware is also harmful
And there is a third point that is at least just as harmful to the environment, which at first glance does not seem so obvious: Countless devices vegetate quietly in drawers and boxes in attics. Some of them are still functional, others are ready for a scrap, and they are quickly forgotten. At first glance this may not seem too tragic – after all, no pollutants are released directly into the environment. And yet years of storage are also increasingly a problem for our environment.
Our raw materials are becoming increasingly scarce and more valuable. Every electrical device that is no longer used and just lying around in a discarded condition binds valuable raw materials that cannot be recycled. Accordingly, more and more new raw materials have to be extracted using immense amounts of energy and materials.
Let’s be honest: How many discarded electrical devices are there in your home?
3 clever alternatives to recycling
But does it always have to be the complete disposal of an old device? There are also interesting alternatives:
Alternative 1: The repair
Those who repair electrical devices instead of disposing of them counteract the trade-in sometimes highly toxic components. Repair it yourself or have it repaired? It’s a question of harm and personal skills and motivation. Repair cafés run by volunteers in many German cities offer free repair support. Building instructions, for example for broken cell phones or laptops, can also be found on the Internet. Just give it a try!
Alternative 2: donate devices
Why not just do something good? Many people in need are also happy about old and discarded devices in your eyes. Of course, the electrical devices must still be functional for this. The Digital Helpers are, for example, a non-profit organization that collects old computer hardware and passes it on to people who would otherwise not have the opportunity to use a computer.
It should be noted, however, that any costs incurred for travel to or shipping the devices must be borne by yourself. However, this would also be the case with all other alternatives, such as the drive to the recycling center, and the small, additional effort is worth it for a good cause.
Alternative 3: avoid waste
It is still most effective to avoid waste as much as possible in the first place. Before you buy a new one, just think about whether you have to buy a completely new computer again. Maybe an upgrade is enough, or is it enough to just replace a few components? Or is it enough to buy a good, used, and professionally reconditioned system?
Now it’s your turn
Which variant of electronic device disposal you ultimately decide is of course up to you. However, for the sake of our environment, you should choose a variant in which the device is still recycled. In no case should you just dispose of it with household waste!
We hope we were able to give you some new ideas on how to dispose of and reuse your devices with this article, so that a little fewer old devices may end up in the trash in the future.