Green Computer Use, Recycling and Disposal

Computers, laptops, and tablets have increasingly become are part of our daily lives. There are approximately 1.5 billion PCs in use in the world.  We use them for work, school and leisure. There are so many options available when researching to purchase a new one as our first one, a replacement or just as another to add to the household collection. We apply a variety of criteria to make our choice – which  is the one best suited to our needs, which is the most eco- friendly, the one with best reviews,  whilst being within our allocated budget.  Once purchased, we have to consider how can we use it, but more importantly, later on dispose of it and reduce our environmental impact?


How can we make our computer use greener, eco-friendly?

What can I do to reduce my computing carbon footprint?

▪      You can make a difference without much difficulty. The most important thing is to educate yourself and take individual responsibility.

▪      Think carefully about whether you really need a new computer. Could upgrading your existing computer serve the same purpose?

▪      Upgrade the memory or hard disk space as much a possible

▪      Many small offices now have networks, which store documents so that the computer on your desk doesn’t’t need as much computing power – can you employ this type of network?

▪      Older laptops and desktop computers will usually support the use of a USB wireless stick – a small gadget like a USB memory stick which plugs in when needed to provide fast Wi-Fi access, use this as a solution

▪      Strip your software down to the essentials – don’t use valuable space or processor memory on programs and files you don’t use

▪      Keep your computer well-tuned. You’re more likely to want to keep a computer longer if it runs better

▪      Become a workplace champion, and educate your colleagues

▪      Make sure PCs are turned off at night and especially weekends

▪      Don’t forget to turn off printers and other equipment

▪      Make sure occasional and casual users of equipment are aware of need to shut down when they are finished

▪      Set PCs to go on stand by if they haven’t been in use for five minutes

▪      Use technology instead of travel

▪      Print material only when necessary, and always use both sides of the page

▪      Make greener computing part of your policies and future strategies

▪      When purchasing new ICT equipment for work, choose energy-saving devices that have been manufactured in an environmentally-conscious fashion.

▪      Dispose of old hardware responsibly; send old PCs to be reconditioned and recycled.

▪      Find out how much energy your ICT systems use and monitor ongoing consumption levels.

What can we do with our computers when we have finished with them?

Eventually that computer we spent so long choosing, and using, will probably need replacing as the technology improves to better meet our needs, or our needs change.  Perhaps it is just worn out, too slow, or is broken beyond repair.   When the time comes, what do we do with the old one?  Do we even spare a fraction of the time we spend choosing it, on how we will dispose of it?

A study commissioned by Environment Canada found that “Over a third of households still had old IT waste in the home at the time of the survey. These consumers may not want to put these items with their normal trash, but may not be aware of safe methods of dealing with this waste.

Almost half of households with IT waste gave it away, used drop-off depots or returned it to a supplier, while 16% of households put it in the trash and 5% used other methods of disposal. Donating used equipment, taking it back, or using a depot was most common in Alberta (57%).”

According to Greenpeace, when finished with, many electronic goods end up in landfills or incinerators or, are exported to Asia. Toxic chemicals in electronics products can leach into the land over time or are released into the atmosphere, impacting nearby communities and the environment.

In developed countries, electronics recycling takes place in purpose-built recycling plants under controlled conditions. In many EU states for example, plastics from e-waste are not recycled to avoid brominated furans and dioxins being released into the atmosphere. In developing countries however, there are no such controls. Recycling is done by hand in scrap yards, often by children.


Hand them on. 

Just because our computer is no longer suitable to our needs, does not mean that it has reached the end of its useful life.  As well as handing them on to family, friends, selling on auction sites, or free-cycling them, there are non-profit organizations who to collect unwanted computers and laptops to send them where needed. Research them near to where you live to avoid adding to your carbon footprint!


Overseas Aid

World Computer Exchange ships donated refurbished desktop and laptop computers (as well as many other new and used items) to groups who choose to become our Partners. Partners can be NGOs, government ministries, schools, orphanages, libraries, youth centres, telecentres, universities & entrepreneurs. The WCE Board of Directors has approved 900 Partner organizations in 79 developing countries. Computers from WCE are for use in public settings to help connect more youth in developing countries to the Internet at low cost. Most of the computers need to be used most of the time to connect youth (up-to the age of 24).Volunteers to collect and refurbish computers, load them with our educational content, recycle any dead equipment.

However Greenpeace warn that while this is” a good way to increase a product’s lifespan. Many old products are exported to developing countries. Although the benefits of reusing electronics in this way are clear, the practice is causing serious problems because the old products are dumped after a short period of use in areas that are unlikely to have hazardous waste facilities.

It is important to ensure that recipients of these donated computers and electronic equipment are educated about safe disposal when no longer required.


Donations to local community organizations and individuals

reBOOT Canada is a registered charity, based in Toronto, committed to safely recycling  and refurbishing donated computer equipment to provide low cost access to simple technology to help organizations and individuals get and stay connected.  Their mission is to bridge the digital divide by providing subsidized and reliable access to technology, software, computer education and the internet experience keeping it out of landfills.   Over the last two decades, reBOOT Canada has distributed over 200,000 pieces of equipment to non-profit organizations, charities, and individuals in Canada, allowing them to support their communities, continue their work and enter the workforce.

Thanks to the generous assistance from corporations and individual donors, reBOOT’s programs have directly reached over 75,000 Canadians and their communities. reBOOT Canada and its staff are dedicated to making a significant improvement in the lives of Canadians by providing them with the tools, knowledge, and self-confidence to achieve their goals through the use of technology and the internet. In 2015, reBOOT will continue to expand and improve operations in order to ensure its community programs reach as many Canadians as possible.

Similarly the Sky’s the Limit charity Provide laptops across Canada to youth in need.

The Electronic Recycling Association of Canada is a non-profit organization dedicated to reducing electronic waste through the reuse and recycling of unwanted computers, laptops and related electronic equipment.  They operate to

  • Reduce Electronic Waste – Prevent unwanted computers, laptops and related electronic equipment from ending up in landfill or being prematurely disposed of or recycled when someone else can still use them.
  • Reuse Electronics – Maximize the lifecycle of computers, laptops and related electronic equipment by recovering and refurbishing them to donate to charities and other non-profit organizations at no cost.


Electronic Recycling Association offers depot locations in all major cities in Canada, including Calgary.

This program does not take every type of electronic item, so as with everything your dispose of , ensure all materials not suitable for donation, are appropriately recycled in a responsible and environmentally friendly way

The Recycling council of Alberta has a list of recycling centers so make every effort to find your local station and make the best use of it.


How to dispose of items

  • Make the best use of your municipal collection sites. They are strictly controlled and assessed regularly. Alberta Recycling is constantly working with communities across the province to make it easier for Albertans to round up and recycle their old electronics safely and responsibly.

Environmental responsibility begins at home

Albertans were the first in North America to start recycling their electronics. You can conveniently drop off your electronics at any one of the more than 300 municipal collection sites in the province. This program allows individuals, organizations and corporations to turn in their old computers, computer components and televisions to be recycled in an environmentally sound and safe process.

The electronics collected at municipal collection sites are transported to Alberta’s registered electronics processors, where they are reduced to commodity state (plastics, metals, glass), which are then used by manufacturers to create new products. None of the products processed in Alberta’s electronics recycling program are sent to, or ‘dumped’ into developing countries.

If you have old TVs, computers, monitors or printers, now is the time to bring them in to your municipal collection site. It is the responsible and environmentally sensible thing to do.”

  • Look for e-Steward accredited recyclers e-Stewards is a global team of individuals, institutions, businesses, non-profit organizations, and governmental agencies upholding a safe, ethical, and globally responsible standard for e-waste recycling and refurbishment. We stop the export of illegal hazardous e-waste to developing nations and create a safe, green, and just world through sharing and using the principled and practical standard for electronics recycling and reuse.

Staples stores are accredited in areas where there are no recycling facilities available.

  • Return to manufacturers through Take back Schemes and responsible recycling and disposal policies. You may even be the start of a recycling scheme if you suggest it to your retailer and they currently have no scheme.
  • Ecycle solutions have drop off depots or arrange to pick up business computer and electronic assets

If we care for the environment we can embrace new technology and use it responsibly. We can use it as an aid to research, plan and improve our eco-friendly lifestyle .  The computers we buy, the way we use them and the way we dispose of them when we no longer need them, all have an impact on the environment.  These issues affect us all, our children, our neighbors and potentially people much further afield.  Whilst preparing for the arrival of a new computer we must also consider the impact of our old one, and its final destination.

All it takes is a little research and you will find you have many more options than you realized possible. Make the most of them – someone will be grateful you did.




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