It is estimated that there are around 1.2 billion computers in the world, the USA, Japan, China, Germany and the UK being the top five countries in terms of numbers of computers. Probably a day does not pass when we do not come into contact with a computer, we may have one at home, use one at work, at university, school or the library.
Computer use is becoming more and more necessary as more people choose to adopt online shopping and social media into their lifestyle. The frequent changes in technology mean we are constantly looking for computer equipment which is 'up-to-the-minute' meaning that the useful lifespan of a PC is probably only around four years. This does not mean your PC will wear out, rather that it will become obsolete, the warranty will have expired and spare parts will become more difficult to source. Some new software and games will not operate on an old PC, so at some point in time you will need to dispose of your desktop.
Large organisations and establishments such as universities, schools, hospitals, and government offices tend to renew their desktops every 3 or 4 years, rolling out brand new machines to each user. This has meant that the computer recycling industry has now become big business and the number of IT disposal companies is on the increase.
IT disposal companies generally offer a service whereby they will collect all equipment and create an asset inventory for ease of traceability and also cost analysis. Equipment will either be offered for resale or forwarded for scrap and disposal. You may retrieve some of the resale profit if the equipment is not obsolete and could be refurbished and reused.
Appropriate security measures have to be taken to provide data security; this is a legal requirement of the 1998 Data Protection Act. It is possible to destroy data by physically destroying the hard drive; however the preferred method is to overwrite the data several times by recording random characters onto the drive. So, we do need to know how to safely recycle a computer.
By law, all disposal companies within Europe must be registered with the Environment Agency and follow the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) directive. Cathode Ray Tubes (CRT) and flat panel screens must also be disposed of in accordance with these regulations.
Some charities will also accept computer hardware for refurbishment, using donated desktops to aid disadvantaged communities and schools throughout the world.
You could also check out the recycling options online for your local council, they may offer disposal facilities at your local refuse collection point.
John Cavanagh is a keen home computer blogger and computer service engineer, previously working in the PCB assembly industry.