When you buy a computer, the furthest thing from your mind is what you’ll do to safely dispose of your hardware once it reaches the end of its usefulness. But it’s really a question that should be a top priority when you consider what to buy and who to buy it from. Recycling and environmental laws around hardware have become ever more rigorous, and you need to comply with them come binning time. In this post we set out the rules and a few tips around how to dispose of your old laptops and PCs.

Step 1: Know the hardware recycling law

PC recycling is all based around the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) directive. Computers contain a whole stack of materials that can be hazardous to health, so just chucking your PC in the bin is not safe disposal.

You can take your computer to a tip that accepts WEEE items however. Just look at your local council waste recycling schemes to check if they will accept them.

Step 2: Find out who pays for the hardware recycling

Often the producer of the technology will take on the onus of the recycling charges. If you’ve bought a new machine from Dell for example, then they will take back the old one free of charge, as will Apple. Under the UK WEEE obligations, if a retailer sells you a new PC, they must take back the old one. See this PDF WRAP guide on retailer take back.

It’s also important to remember that not all councils will collect or accept machines free of charge, so it’s worth finding out beforehand what the local regulations are regarding your chosen PC.

TIP: There are some computer recycling schemes that need donations of old working computers for charity projects. Have a look online or check out:

http://www.ukitrecycling.com/charity and http://itforcharities.co.uk/it-services/recycled-pcs/

Step 3: Wipe your data

Before you recycle your old laptop or desktop, you will need to completely erase all the data on there. Now this isn’t just a case of sending all your files to the recycling bin, although this is the first step.

Once files have been deleted from your bin, they’re still recoverable on your hard drive, so you’ll need to do something more drastic to get rid of them.

To completely erase everything, you’ll have to download a safe data deletion programme. There are loads of free tools available such as:

  • Eraser which will fully erase data from your hard-drive
  • File Shredder (which does just that)
  • Revo Uninstaller which has an evidence remover to wipe free space (where data may still lurk).

After that, you’ll need to unregister your computer from Apple and Microsoft etc., so that it’s no longer recognised as being owned by you. Then send your PC back to how it was before you had it by carrying out a system restore.

What we do

At Hardware Associates, we take in computers that are no longer loved by their owners, and we often spruce them up in accordance with our Q20 promise checklist (which includes wiping all data as well as cleaning, testing, fixing and replacing all the components). If the machine is beyond rescue, we reuse the parts in other machines, and for parts that can’t be used in other ways, we recycle or sell them on.

Our commitment to recycling assures you that when you buy a refurbished computer from us, the utmost care has gone into making it as green as possible.

Looking for some advice around hardware recycling or making the most of your existing hardware? Contact our team of experts for ‘must have’ hardware tips.