Why We Should Recycle Computers


The EPA reports that the average American household includes about 24 electronic devices, but in 2007, only 18 percent of the TVs and computers thrown out in the United States were collected for computer recycling, also known as e-cycling. Computers and other e-waste include a variety of components that are not safe for the environment or that are valuable to reuse or recycle, and e-cycling can reduce the impact of throwing out these materials.

Hazardous Materials

Lead, nickel, cadmium and mercury are all elements used in computers that the EPA reports could be hazardous to both the environment and humans if they are simply thrown away with other waste. The EPA claims that the computers and other electronic devices currently in landfills do not pose a significant health risk to humans or the environment, but that individuals and governments should make it a priority to keep electronic devices out of landfills.

Valuable Materials

Many electronics, including computers, contain valuable materials that the EPA suggests should not be simply added to landfills. Copper, plastic and precious metals are all costly to produce for computers but can be recycled and reused in future devices. Thus, recycling computers saves valuable materials and reduces the cost of the materials needed in new computer production.

Saving Resources

Because the materials used in computers are costly to produce, recycling these materials also cuts down on the resources used in computer manufacturing. These resources include not only raw materials, but the resources used to mine precious metals and the electricity needed to run manufacturing processes. By reducing the number of components that need to be created new for electronic devices, you can also contribute to reducing pollution and greenhouses gases caused by industrial processes.

Functional Devices

Donating instead of recycling computers that are still in working condition is the best way to ensure that your electronic devices do not go to waste. By donating your e-waste, you can extend the life of your computer and allow other people to benefit from your still functional technology. The EPA also advocates donating computers because it is the most environmentally friendly option for existing electronic devices, because even recycling computers still results in some waste products entering the world’s landfills.


Limited information exists on what the companies responsible for recycling computers actually do with the collected devices, particularly outside the United States. The EPA reports that about 61 percent of computer monitors and TVs collected for e-cycling were actually exported for refurbishment or disassembly into component parts