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A quick guide to recycling electronics and IT equipment

Recycling electrical equipment

By: Kieron Casey

For many individuals, living a green and environmentally friendly life is quite simple and straightforward. Separating plastics and paper before putting them in the recycle bin is a simple enough task and buying locally sourced organic foods is second nature. Even the greenest minded of individuals, however, may appear uncertain at what to do with IT equipment and household electronics they wish to dispense with.

The hazards of disposing with old IT equipment

Simply disposing of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) items in the fashion of normal trash could prove potentially lethal to the environment. Due to the fact that most electrical equipment is filled with chemicals and toxins, such as mercury, lead and cadmium, they must be disposed of in a careful manner. If any of these chemicals were to leak they could potentially poison the ground and any wildlife around it so they must be kept away from normal waste landfills. Amongst the most dangerous of items include IT equipment; a typical computer monitor contains up to five pounds of lead.

What to do with WEEE products

When electrical goods have reached the end of their perceived usefulness the most pressing urge would be to simply dispose of them. However, this action will usually be conducted with too much haste. Before even considering disposing of the equipment it is important to assess whether the equipment really is useless or if it can be re-used or redeployed elsewhere; it has been found that most IT equipment and electrical items that are thrown away each year are either still fully functional or, at the very minimum, have parts that could easily be recycled for further use. If it is not at all possible to recycle, if a home cannot be found or the machinery is indeed beyond all repair, then it is time to recycle.

Which WEEE products are recyclable?

In recent years many electronic and electrical goods are produced replete with a “crossed out wheelie bin” sign on them. This symbol is there to alert its owners that this product should not be thrown away with the trash like normal household waste. However, this sign is not a necessity in determining which products could and should be kept out of the waste. Simply put, all household goods, appliances and IT equipment that are powered either electrically or electronically should be disposed of in a separate manner to other waste. This also includes smaller items such as mobile phones or batteries.

How to recycle WEEE equipment

Smaller electrical equipment is usually the easiest to get rid of. In many retail stores there are collection points for old batteries and mobile phones which then dispense of the unwanted items in an environmentally friendly fashion. For larger goods, such as computers, monitors and televisions there are a number of local civil amenities who will get rid of these products for either a negligible fee or for no cost whatsoever. These are usually easy to find either via a quick internet search or a scan of a phone directory. Other options include the retails stores where the equipment was purchased from or, in the case of businesses who need a number of items recycling, the option of hiring an independent WEEE recycling is a sensible one.


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