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December 5, 2020

Dispose of Old Computing Gear Responsibly


Last week I got in on the tail-end of a Twitter discussion about how to dispose of a swelling laptop/tablet battery. FYI, when this happens to a Lithium battery, there’s a chance the battery container will breach. Should that occur, Lithium combines aggressively with atmospheric oxygen. This can cause burns and fires. Dangerous! Thus, proper disposal (and handling during that process) is important.

In the USA, Goodwill Offers Widely Available eWaste Disposal

As I wrote in a year-end article for GoCertify in 2019, Goodwill is a national-scale organization that accepts, handles, and disposes of eWaste properly and safely. There’s a Goodwill donation center within 30 miles of most cities and towns in the USA (I have 10 locations with 10 miles of my house, according to the Goodwill Donation Center Locator). According to other responders to the Tweet thread that Rafael Rivera started on October 5, national chains such as the Apple Store, Home Depot, and Lowes also accept aging Lithium batteries. And further, most states, and most counties and municipalities operate recycling centers, most of which also accept eWaste (call ahead to make sure).

I like Goodwill because their recycling and reclamation operations also offer much-needed employment to their local communities. You can learn more about how these operations fit under the Goodwill umbrella in the “Electronics Recycling Q&A with Goodwill E-Cycle” published on April 15, 2019.Please note, however, that during the pandemic many or most Goodwill trailer locations are closed. When dropping off at donation centers, they advise visitors to take a contactless approach. This means masking up, unloading your donations on the curb outside the store, and keeping a safe distance from Goodwill employees and volunteers.

Outside the USA, Dealing with eWaste Is Highly Location-Dependent

In the EU, manufacturers for most electronics are required to accept and handle returned equipment at the buyer/customer’s request. Most developed countries operate licensed, accredited eWaste handling operations of some kind or another (look for R2, ISO14001 or OHSAS 18001 certifications for electronics recycling). Outside the developed world, checking for responsible disposal is even more important. If you can’t find out what’s recommended online (most readers should be able to do so easily) check with your local government, or a nearby computer store. Chances are pretty good you’ll be able to find a responsible eWaste recycler without expending too much time and effort.

Author: Ed Tittel

Ed Tittel is a 30-plus-year computer industry veteran. He’s a Princeton and multiple University of Texas graduate who’s worked in IT since 1981 when he started his first programming job. Over the past three decades he’s also worked as a manager, technical evangelist, consultant, trainer, and an expert witness. See his professional bio for all the details.

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