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Question of the Week: After you buy a new computer, what do you do with the old one?

2008 September 2

Each week we ask a question related to the environment. Please let us know your thoughts as comments. Feel free to respond to earlier comments or post new ideas. Previous questions.

Last week, we asked what you think about when you buy a new computer. Now we want to know about the old ones. You can “ecycle,donate them to charity, give them to a friend, etc. Some people store them because they’re not quite sure what to do.

After you buy a new computer, what do you do with the old one?


En español: Cada semana hacemos una pregunta relacionada al medio ambiente. Por favor comparta con nosotros sus pensamientos y comentarios. Siéntase en libertad de responder a comentarios anteriores o plantear nuevas ideas. Preguntas previas.

La semana pasada, le preguntamos sobre lo que piensa al comprar una nueva computadora. Ahora queremos saber qué hace con las viejas. Puede reciclar los aparatos electrónicos al donarlos a entidades caritativas, o a algún amigo, etc. Algunas personas las almacenan porque no tienen claro qué hacer con ellas.

¿Después que compra una computadora nueva, qué hace con la computadora vieja?

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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104 Responses leave one →
  1. Jessica permalink
    September 3, 2008

    If the computer is still usable but you have upgraded, there are plenty of people who can’t afford to upgrade. You can donate them to Salvation Army, any thrift store, Veterans Association, and the like.
    As well, if they are in non-working condition some companies take them back to refurbish for resale, or you can recycle them with your local county landfill.

  2. Maria permalink
    September 3, 2008

    I give it to someone who needs it. If no one wants it I recycle it.

  3. Willi Es permalink
    September 3, 2008

    Let’s see, we have someone who responded with a “my son used the two monitors for target practice with his BB gun, and now we use them as bird houses,” another person who burned his computer so no one else could use it, and a guy who likes to fly to a recycling center with his older laptop, but it’s OK because he uses carbon offsets for said travel.

    These all must be folks joking around. Right?

    Their responses up there reveal that they’re joking.

    …I hope.

  4. Willi Es permalink
    September 3, 2008


  5. Adanna permalink
    September 3, 2008

    I simply E-cycle

  6. Willi Es permalink
    September 3, 2008

    I understand what you mean.

    The thing is, this is an outreach effort of our Government; to educate and elucidate through discussion.

    The reality of our situation here is that there are folks who live within our nation’s boundaries who do not, in fact, understand a word of English.
    They pollute as do we all. What would be the use of not informing and not including a large segment of our population just because of a language barrier?

    Choose your battles carefully. Look for where it is appropriate to do so.

  7. Willi Es permalink
    September 3, 2008

    All good points.

  8. Willi Es permalink
    September 3, 2008


  9. Willi Es permalink
    September 3, 2008


  10. Willi Es permalink
    September 3, 2008


    This is an ad for My Clean Sky, isn’t it.

  11. Druz permalink
    September 3, 2008

    Keep for spare parts or give it to someone who needs one.

  12. Jim permalink
    September 3, 2008

    By the time I’m done with a computer no one wants it. I take the disk drive out and put it in the attic somewhere in case I ever REALLY REALLY need to get something off of it, and then I take the rest of it to the county-sponsored recycling center.

  13. Jay Warner permalink
    September 3, 2008

    When I upgrade, I give the old one to my favorite Day Care. I also solicited the community for some for the same purpose.

    When they get too old for the Day Care (we just decommissioned a 1991 Mac Classic), I take these to the local Correctional Institution, where the prisoners tear them up for recycling materials. Not quite slave labor, and I bet they don’t wear lead sensing tags. But it is a useful activity that _can_ help all of us to live sustainable lives.

    If the prison were not here, I would pay about $10 for a commercial recycler to take the electronic goodies. There is still recoverable copper, gold, lead and tin in them.

  14. elizabeth miller permalink
    September 3, 2008

    Recently, I bought a laptop computer. I looked on-line to see who in the area where I live, took old computers. I took the monitor to this recycle place near my house. I think they restore old computers.

  15. Joan permalink
    September 3, 2008

    Alex (and everybody): many States are now enacting laws that will make it mandatory for manufacturers and/or retailers of computers to take them back for recycling at no cost to the consumer. Oregon’s law will go into effect next January, for example. Might be worth checking to see if your State is one that has acted on this already :o}

  16. Flaqs permalink
    September 3, 2008

    I know you can donate it, sometimes send it back to the manufacturer or even to the store were you bought your new computer at, or wait for the city or county E-waste recycling day and take it there. The same is true for old cellphones :)

  17. Phil Hopp permalink
    September 3, 2008

    I store my old computers and old discarded electronic equipment in my garage. There really is any other place to put them, because they are hazardous waste and there isn’t any local recycling program or collection. there is a County program, once per year, but that usually is out of the local area.

  18. WRATTman permalink
    September 3, 2008

    Amen!! As Terri says, our society is too greedy and too much into
    “keeping up with the Jones.”

  19. skamaniak permalink
    September 3, 2008
    This is a great organization. There are several possibilities available through this amazing Portland, Ore. group, which has a storefront and a very informative website. These include donating old equipment, learning through volunteering, and earning your own rebuilt computer through 24 hours of ‘sweat equity.’ They encourage using Linux and shareware to power these machines, and operate a thrift store where recycled components can be purchased. This is an option that doesn’t bankrupt the general populace surviving with little cash in this information age. I have a 60-plus year-old friend who lives here in the Columbia River Gorge who earned himself a computer to run software I gave him to compose music with by volunteering, driving into town to put in his 24 hours. My nephew, a college student, is refurbishing one of my old machines and will use Linux, which doesn’t require as much memory to run.

  20. skamaniak permalink
    September 3, 2008

    P.S. Watch this video to learn more about Free Geek:

  21. dylan permalink
    September 3, 2008

    i recycle

  22. Joyce R permalink
    September 4, 2008

  23. Megan permalink
    September 4, 2008

    I found a local recycling center that takes most electronics and melts them down. They take TVs, computers, speakers, laptops, radios, pretty much anything that can be hazardous to throw out. Look one up!

  24. Georgia Sam permalink
    September 4, 2008

    I retrieve it from the parking lot below the seventh-floor window it exited from, pull the sledgehammer head out of the central processing unit, and wiggle my boot until it slides out of the jagged glass and plastic in the screen area. Then I call IT, and they come pick up the pieces for recycling.

  25. S. Ira Grossman permalink
    September 4, 2008

    The City of Los Angeles Bureau of Sanitation has a hazardous waste drop=off system. Electronic waste such as computers, monitors, TV can be dropped on Saturdays and Sundays at several locations.

  26. Katherine Copeland permalink
    September 4, 2008

    We are located in Richmond Ky and we have a family run recycler called Kentucky Recycling they do ewaste and industrial waste. They have took it upon themselves to start a buy back program for most electronics which is pretty kewl. We take not only computer stuff but house phones , small appliances , dvd players etc…. pretty good thing they have going. They also donate lots of working items for charity.

  27. Lyn permalink
    September 4, 2008

    Staples will take them. They charge $10 for the monitors and I’m not sure what the cost for the actual PC are. I had 5 computers in my garage and posted on Craig’s list – FREE PCs. A man who refurbishes them for people who cannot afford computers. Mainly he gives them to people who are looking for work but do not have computers to apply for jobs online. So that is one way to recycle them too – via Craig’s list.

  28. Jen permalink
    September 4, 2008

    My family has upgraded computers dozens of times over the last 25 years. In most cases, we pass it on to a friend or family member that needs one, and we’ve sold some on ebay. There are always people who don’t need the latest & greatest and can’t afford to buy a new one.

  29. Charles Patton permalink
    September 4, 2008

    I am Charlie Patton Founder and President of Students In Training (SIT). I want you to know that a couple students and I started SIT 13 years ago in a local school, primarily to distribute free upgraded computers to needy students. From our inauguration, SIT has grown in scope and delivery, some 300% during the past 2 years. Currently SIT has a tri-fold mission with a keen interest that keeps E-waste landfill free. In regards what you can do is donated your old computer to us and or help us starte a SIT in your area in order to spread our capabilities within our Computers in the Community Program and associated Recycling requirements.

    SIT growth gains come through many fine individuals and foundations based in Rowan County and or North Carolina; thus they are helping us donate over 600 PC’s in 2008 to date, which increases our recycling efforts and expenses. Concerning, SIT experienced growth in recycling more this year than ever; thus, my reason for contacting you because for every PC donated SIT recycles 2), which covers storage, disassembly, transportation, and sale of parts and pieces since all are a losing proposition regarding funds. Yet within this effort, SIT keeps technologies’ 660+ toxins landfill free.

    One can coime observe this process by visiting us below our benefactor business Iness Street Drug in the basement. You will witness students and mentors hard at work helping local needy attain free upgraded computer donated from the community and much more, including reducing our and others CO2 footprints, as we reduce energy require of downstream users.

    To learn more about us vivit and read Senator Dole/SIT article in the Post:

    In concert, I have listed a few for you plus our Mission Statement and Board of Directors coupled with key staff and line item costing. After your perusal, you will understand our ambitious 2008 goals.

    In 2007 SIT:

    • Donated over 400 computers to needy families in our community
    • Kept over 40 tons of e-waste out of our landfills and thus out of our drinking water
    • Trained over 100 students in Leadership, Technology, Business, and Environmental Stewardship; including Catawba College and Rowan-Cabarrus Community College Interns

    We also:

    • Provided summer employment for 12 high school and college students
    • Awarded $4000 in scholarships and enabled a Park Scholarship award
    • Searched for and received $20,000 of ‘in kind’ environmental consulting services
    • Embarked on having our Environmental Management System (EMS) certified by North Carolina and by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) to their 14001 specification
    • Developed websites for several local non-profits and a school
    In 2008 we have:

    • Started donating ‘Computers in the Community’ thanks to Innes Street Drug and a grant from the Food Lion Foundation
    • Converted to QuickBooks and hired an internal accountant/business manager
    • Hired a full time Executive Director
    • Budgeted 1000 PC’s to be donated through our ‘Computers in the Community’ program
    • Planned recycling of over 80 tons of PC e-waste (approximately 2000 pc’s) thus producing much CO2 and Energy Reductions at SIT and downstream.
    • Created partnerships with several local businesses
    • Expect to franchise two operation in Florence, SC and Concord, NC

    Moreover in 2008, SIT expects to earn and then attain North Carolina & International Organization for Standardization (ISO) Certification that will become our Environmental Management System.

    This is what you can do with old, spent computers, bring them to SIT.


    Charles Patton
    Founder, President Students in Training – 704 637 8915
    704-640-3881 – cell

    SIT…for Leadership, Technology, Business, and Environmental Stewardship…Through God’s Blessings.

  30. joe smith permalink
    September 4, 2008

    i just throw mine in the trash

  31. tsup permalink
    September 4, 2008

    Hi my name is tuan tran, I think coolness is right we should give our old electronix to poor third world countries, they;ll take anything…good job coolness. way to think outside the box

  32. andbr permalink
    September 5, 2008

    In the Cleveland, OH area anyone can take an old computer/monitor/printer to a recycling place located on East 40th. They either refurbish them for donation or recycle their components.

  33. Anonymous permalink
    September 6, 2008

    Recyle to Philadelphia recyleing philadelphia we recyle

  34. moji permalink
    September 7, 2008

    i take it to, who need it!!!
    this work will be hapend me…

  35. Gail permalink
    September 7, 2008

    I give our oldcomputer to our school so that they will have computers in the classrooms & library for students to use. Our computer is still more advanced than the ones that they have.

  36. Big Mark permalink
    September 7, 2008

    I put mine in the spare room under some junk. When we clean that room it goes to the garage into the “garage sale” pile, we never have a sale. I hate to get rid of it after all it was “only” $3500.

  37. Shelagh Keleyhers permalink
    September 7, 2008

    When I had a printer go bad and replaced it, I researched on the internet if it could be donated. I left word on a site that said it would take computer type equipment and pass it on. I communicated what I thought the condition of it was (perhaps needing repair), and did not hear from them within 24 hours. I researched again and found a business here in Omaha very close to my home that would recycle the printer. I paid a fee of $5.00 to assist with the cost of getting it to the government agency and site where it would be properly disposed of. I felt quite good that I was able to find a location for proper recycling and very good also that the owner was proactively working with businesses to facilitate recycling of computer type equipment.

  38. Zapo permalink
    September 7, 2008

    Put it in the trash – I use them along time and they are no good to any one.

  39. Helen permalink
    September 8, 2008

    I donate my old computers and all electronics to to Data Doctors who in turn give them to an orgainization that reuses the parts or refurbishes them for reuse.

  40. permalink
    September 10, 2008

    i would give my old pc to small childrens who are going to start learning pc that will help them laern without buying a new pc
    mostly small children mess up with a pc with cold drinkd etc. it they mess up also then it would have little effect on pc because we are recycleing it

  41. Anonymous permalink
    September 13, 2008

    Yeah, this question always comes in mind when we upgrade any our electronic gadgets. What to do with old one? And the answer should be RECYCLING.

  42. Marlene permalink
    September 16, 2008

    I wish more people thought that way!

  43. Marlene permalink
    September 16, 2008

    There is really no where to recycle computers here on our reservation, people have been throwing them into the garbage. There is not a electronic recycling day here either, if there is one here in Montana people would have to travel over 75 miles to do so; with gas prices that will not and usually has not happend. And again, the consumer gets charged to recycle their unwanted electronics which people are not willing to pay, usually because they can not afford it.

  44. charles Patton permalink
    September 29, 2008

    As President and Founder of Students In Training, I guide students to pick up such PC’s and inventory them for possible re-use through a major upgrade, which then go to the needy…or the students total (100% ) recycle unusable or spent pc’s, and in regard keep e-waste landfill free. We gave out over 400 free computers in 2007 and SIT stand currently on line to double this in 08. Plus, the students recycled 40 tons in 07 and are gaining via their efforts nearly double this on 08…which helps then gain their ISO14001.

    This is what SIT does, see use online at

    We welcome contact 704-637-8915 for we desire to expand elsewhere!

  45. crt disposal permalink
    October 12, 2008

    e-waste should be recycled properly.

  46. cheap computers permalink
    August 3, 2009

    i sell my old computer when i bought the new one

  47. cheap computers permalink
    October 7, 2009

    I should probably donate at least one of the PCs that aren’t being used.

  48. My Computer Is Slow permalink
    March 11, 2010

    I just let them collect dust in my basement. Soon I will put them up for adoption or find a recycle center for them.

  49. Igor permalink
    June 29, 2010

    Recycle it. To help E-waste disposal..

  50. garage door repair permalink
    July 2, 2010

    How can I attach two computers to one surround sound system, and have them use it at the same time?

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