SMB Technology

How to dispose of your old technology

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So you’ve decided to upgrade your technology in time for the end of financial year tax time? New equipment in the office is exciting, but have you thought about what you're going to do with the old computers? Don't just think of that tired old machine as yesterday's news – it deserves some serious attention, to turn it from potential landfill contents into a potential asset.

Here are some of the smart choices you can make when it comes to dealing with used computers and related equipment like printers and monitors.

Security alert: old files never die …

First things first – before saying goodbye to that old computer, consider what private information might be stored on it, such as financial information, social security numbers, and so on.

Even if you have deleted all of your files, a determined individual may be able to recover the information. The US Department of Defense and others have set standards for getting rid of information for good, but some truly careful people actually destroy the hard drives of computers before getting rid of them. No matter what, you'll want to pull out the hard drive and either store it or destroy it before you get rid of your old computer. 

Things to avoid doing with old equipment

While the tide is changing, the unfortunate truth is that a lot of computer equipment still winds up in landfills, leaching toxic materials into the soil and groundwater. With a little bit of extra effort, you can take a greener path:

  • Don't throw it in the trash. In many places, there are now laws against doing so, and even if it's not against the law, it's still wasteful, as well as harmful to the environment. Computer equipment contains a lot of toxic materials, and the plastic parts will sit in a landfill for many years, if ever before they break down into the soil.
  • Don't just put it on a shelf. In many cases, people don't know what to do with old computers, so they end up storing them. Leaving that old computer in the back of a closet for a year or two where it becomes more obsolete over time makes it far less likely that anyone else can use it.

If you’ve decided you need a new computer, some parts of your existing computer may still be useful. Regardless of what happens to the rest of your old setup, it will save you some money as well as be environmentally responsible if you decide to keep equipment like your old display, for example. One thing to bear in mind is that newer LCD models use significantly less electricity than the older bulky displays with an old-fashioned picture tube. That means that the green karma you gain by keeping that old display out of the landfill may be offset by the extra energy it requires.

Keyboards and mouse devices evolve in the marketplace far more slowly than other computer equipment, which means that your old ones may be essentially the same as the new ones you would buy. Holding onto the old ones can be a good choice, even if you just keep them on hand as spares. Likewise, an older printer may be fine for your needs, depending on how much you use it.

With a little bit of creative thinking, even the main computer itself may still be useful. One obvious choice is to give it to kids-yours, your neighbors', or your relatives'. Letting them have a computer of their own is a good way to avoid having them change the settings on the grown-ups' machine, which can help keep household peace. Local schools and charities may also be interested in taking it off your hands-it doesn't take much effort to find out. It might even be useful to you in a different location, like providing internet access in the garage or in your business’ warehouse, where you wouldn't want to use a shiny new computer.

Recycling old equipment

Unavoidably, there comes a time when any piece of computer equipment outlives its usefulness. When that time comes, the simplest way to recycle the materials is to use a trade-in or recycling program run by the company where you buy the new machine. Almost all computer manufacturers run this type of program, and while they probably won't give you any money for your old equipment, they also probably won't charge you anything.

You can also ask about recycling programs at office-supply stores and electronics retailers. Some of the larger chains run recycling programs themselves, and others will have information that you can use to recycle the equipment yourself. It takes a bit of effort, and you might even have to pay for postage, but it's the responsible thing to do.

Remember, once tax time rolls around, your business will be thankful you decided to ditch the old and welcome the new (especially if you did so in a responsible way).

Published on: Tuesday, June 07, 2011

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