Electronic waste is the fastest growing form of municipal waste. Every year Americans throw away three to four hundred million electronic items and with new laptops or tablet models coming out each month, those numbers will continue to grow.
Ironically, millions of people in the U.S. and around the world don't have access to computers. They aren't able to gain computer skills, access the Internet, or communicate by email. If only a small percentage of the computers we're throwing away were refurbished and reused, people in need would have the computers they need to create the futures they want.
If you're ready to donate your old computer, here are some important guidelines:
Donate to a Nonprofit: As a donor, you can write off the current retail value of your computer. BUT only nonprofit organizations can give donors a receipt for tax purposes.
Donate to an organization that does reuse: Recycling is good, but reuse is better. When a computer is recycled it is broken down into its component materials (copper, steel, etc.) and used to build something new. When a computer is reused, it is used for its original purpose and there is no loss of resources.
Use a Certified Recycler: There are two electronics recycling certifications that ensure recyclers properly handle all electronic waste and don't export it to countries that can't legally accept it. These certifications are Responsible Recycling (R2) and Estewards. Only donate equipment to organizations that hold one of these certifications.
Make sure your data is safe: Not all organizations that accept donated computers have the technology to safely destroy data on hard drives or the coverage to protect donors from liability. Ask the recipient organization about their data destruction policies and procedures before you donate.
I am proud to work at Interconnection, the leading charitable computer reuse organization in the U.S.. Microsoft is helping us encourage people to donate their surplus laptops as part of Microsoft Learning's 20 Years|20 Ways celebration. InterConnection is a Seattle based nonprofit that has shipped tens of thousands of computers to schools, nonprofits and community organizations in the U.S. and in forty countries. We are the first nonprofit in the U.S. to be R2 and ISO14001 certified and have strict data destruction policies.
Whether you donate through InterConnection or another certified recycler, thank you for taking the time to donate your old computer! If you don't have an old laptop but still want to support responsible computer reuse and recycling, I invite you learn more about other ways you can get involved.
About the author: Charles Brennick is the founder and director of InterConnection.org, a nonprofit that refurbishes and ships computers to underserved schools and communities around the world.
Before starting InterConnection, he worked as a natural resource planner, an ecotourism planner in Costa Rica, and an environmental educator in the Peace Corps in Paraguay.
This is a wonderful idea. I have a good friend. He has struggled financially for years but he always takes the time to help others. When I no longer need computers or get machines from clients to recycle, I used to pull out the hard drives and then recycle the rest at our town. Now, I take the time to remove any sensitive data or programs from the hard drives and I give the machines to my friend. He finishes cleaning them up and gives them to other people in the community that are in need.
This is a wonderful idea. It's always best to yank the drive if it contains sensitive information. I recently donated a drive that had only music on it and I used a product called Eraser which overwrites the data on the drive a few times. It's a good solution if you want to wipe a drive that may have served as a secondary media drive.