By Kevin Savetz and Elsa Wenzel (April 14, 2006)
If you started off the new year with a shiny new computer, chances are you didn't even get it plugged in before wondering what to do with the old one. It might seem tempting to dispatch that bulky PC tower and CRT to a dusty basement corner or to dump it in the trash.
Instead, why not give your elderly electronics new life--or at least keep them out of landfills? You might earn cash back or a tax deduction in the process. And you're also helping to keep toxic chemicals out of the environment.
Piles of discarded computer hardware are sorted at HP's California recycling center.
Computers and peripherals contain lead, mercury, and other poisonous materials that can leach into the ground and the water table. Many electronic components are considered hazardous waste, and it may be illegal in your state
to toss them out with your household garbage.
Thanks largely to strict European laws, international electronics makers are reducing the amount of toxic materials used to make their products. And vendors such as NEC, Fujitsu, HP, and others are experimenting with plant-based plastics that would enable, say, the shell of a phone to break down in a compost heap. While greener gadget designs are in the works, in the meantime we continue to dump hundreds of millions of ecologically harmful products each year.
If there's life left in your unwanted gadgets and appliances, you'll find plenty of organizations that specialize in getting them to people who can use them. (More on that later.) But if your old tech isn't usable, make sure to dispose of it properly. Read on for details about how getting rid of old gadgets can fatten your wallet or help at tax time.