How Computer Recycling Works: What to do with Your Old Desktop

old desktop computer for recycling

old desktop computer for recycling

Advancement in technology means more and more computing power in smaller packages like laptops and tablets.  People are on the move and are looking for their technology to go with them. Since so many companies and consumers are replacing their PCs with smaller devices, the need for computer recycling is growing fast.

At GreenCitizen, we are seeing companies replace hundreds of desktops and LCDs at any given time. Plus, many of our recycling drop-off customers are replacing their desktop computers at home with laptops and tablets too.

Computer Recycling & Data Destruction

Like recycling a laptop, the most important step in preparing for recycling a computer is data backup. Both Apple and Windows operating systems offer ways to help you backup your data safely. Once your data is backed up, you can then find a reputable recycler to help crush or data wipe your system for responsible reuse.

Even if  your system is so old that the data is of no use to you, it still  has confidential information such as your email address, phone number, social security info, or other sensitive information. The more secure way to destroy the hard drive for you or your company is to find a responsible recycler. While there might be a small cost to do this, the peace of mind you get from knowing your confidential data is destroyed is priceless.

If your desktop is too old to run current popular web applications, a responsible recycler will break it down. They will then send these parts to a certified de-manufacturer for raw materials. Making products out of recycled raw materials produces less CO2 and water. It also saves having to dig in the earth for more precious materials while reducing the use of petroleum to make plastic.

Beware of Irresponsible Recyclers

Person walking through ewaste landfill

Is computer recycling safe? Yes, when done the right way. When a desktop computer is not properly recycled, it effects you, your company, and this beautiful earth we are trying to save. For example, using an irresponsible recycler to pick up your desktop for free increases the risk of them selling it to an exporter. This exporter might send your computer to a developing country under the false claim of reuse.

Due to lack of government environmental regulations and oversight, impoverished communities in developing countries try to salvage as much value from a desktop by any means. This includes looking up hard drives and breaking up a computer into useful parts. They then burn the remaining remnant or PC boards for traces of metals. Open burning of electronics contaminates local water sources and is harmful to the communities who live there. This isn’t what computer recycling is about. It’s immoral and a crime against nature and its inhabitants.

GreenCitizen to the Rescue

Since our start, we have helped divert over 20 million pounds of electronics from landfills and global dumping. We have also returned over 230,000 electronics back to the U.S for responsible recycling.

For those interested in computer recycling in San Francisco, we have a convenient drop-off center near the San Francisco Airport in Burlingame. At the GreenCitizen Eco-center, you not only can drop off items for electronic recycling, but also have your computer hard drives destroyed or wiped clean. We also have electronic waste pickup options for businesses in the San Francisco area.

Our Eco-Center is open Monday to Saturday from 10 to 6. No appointment is necessary. We have a passionate environmental staff that helps you unload your recycling items and helps you through the process.

There is a right way to recycle your old desktop. For more information about computer recycling, give us a call at (650) 493-8700 or message us on our website’s chat!

4 Reasons Why Electronic Recycling Costs are Skyrocketing

Old television for recycling - broken audio

You may have noticed the increasing price of recycling your old electronics. There are 4 major reasons why electronic recycling costs have risen over 100% in 2018. Old television for recycling

  1. The high plastic content found in over 50% of electronics recycled
  2. The abrupt China, Vietnam, and Thailand ban of scrap plastic imports
  3. The largest local de-manufacturer ECS Refining going bankrupt in July, 2018
  4. The 25% tariff war imposed by the Trump Administration.

Let’s take a look at each one in more detail.

Why the Cost of Electronic Recycling Has Gone Up

  1. The high plastic content of over 50% of electronics recycled

Computers and electronics are made up of precious metals and plastics. The top 6 materials are iron, aluminum, copper, lead, nickel, tin, and plastics. Plastics are the most difficult to recycle due to the cost of labor and their low reclaim value.

The typical desktop weighs about 23 lbs. It’s only 1.96% plastic. Because of its high content in iron (61.55%), aluminum (6.40%), and copper (3.41%), it’s cost neutral to recycle. Yet many of global economic factors have caused precious metal prices to fall.

Meanwhile, the plastic content of  LCDs, CRTs, mouse and keyboards, printers, copiers, and coffee pots can be as high as 60-70% of their total weight, making them very expensive to recycle.

  1. China’s ban of plastic scrap import, followed by Vietnam and Thailand

In January 2018, following China’s ban on import plastic scrap, Vietnam, and Thailand also stopped importing plastic scrap for recycling. In the past, reclaimed materials were shipped there, and then the materials were made into some other type of product, called de-manufacturing. Because China has such a low cost of labor, most electronic products are made there.

With the ban, semi-processed reclaimed materials have fewer places to go. To responsibly recycle materials with a high content of plastic, Green Citizen needs to pay higher prices to use the best de-manufacturing facilities in the U.S.

  1. ECS Refining filed bankruptcy on July 2, 2018

On top of the challenges mentioned, one of the largest de-manufacturers in the nation, ECS Refining went bankrupt on July 2, 2018. Over the last 13 years, ECS Refining has been one of the most reliable e-scrap vendors. ECS processed over 20 million pounds of electronics a month. By taking 20 million pounds of de-manufacturing capacity off the market, it has limited the space available in the Western United States to properly de-manufacture all electronics. This has created a bidding war between collectors for the limited space, driving up the cost of electronic recycling.

  1. Trump Administration’s Tariff War with China

First, the Trump administration raised tariffs by 25% on many goods imported from China. China then retaliated with import taxes on goods from the U.S. While much of recycled plastics have been banned, importing precious metals to China are also affected because of the tariff war.  It drives up the cost of exporting and increases recycling costs.

The Green Citizen Solution

electronic recycling objects and Earth Day shirt
Make everyday Earth Day!

Unfortunately, these factors have created a new reality -consumers and businesses are going to have to pay substantially more for electronic recycling.

In fact, the price will increase until it’s cost competitive to make products out of recycling materials locally, creating a local circular economy. That’s why Green Citizen is at the forefront of developing a strategy for this circular economy right here in the San Francisco Bay Area.

We have come up with a plan to counter the new costs of electronic recycling.While costs have risen by 100%, we are only increasing our recycling fee by 50% on September 1, 2018. To cover the remaining 50% of added recycling costs, we are increasing our company’s operational productivity, thus increasing revenue from our reuse items sold on eBay, Amazon and our e-commerce stores. For now, we must all share in the increased costs of electronic recycling.

For more information about the rise of electronic recycling costs, give us a call at (650) 493-8700 or message us on our live chat. We also offer business pickup and consumer drop off electronic recycling in the San Francisco Bay area.

IT Asset Disposition

IT Asset Disposition

IT Asset Disposition

Planning a computer, network, infrastructure, or electronics upgrade in the near future? GreenCitizen’s IT Asset Disposition (ITAD) program can offset your deployment costs by liquidating obsolete equipment!

We’ll pick up your older equipment to help you make room for newer technology — and we’ll pay you for it! Not only will we purchase your outdated equipment, but we won’t charge our usual fees for data sanitization or destruction. That’s the added value of our ITAD program: free data security for your unwanted electronics.

Any lot of items with a resale value of at least $5,000 qualifies for ITAD. Just send us a list of your outdated or obsolete IT assets, including the make and model information, and we’ll provide a free assessment within 24 hours. Nothing could be easier!

Schedule IT Asset Disposition For Business »

To submit your list, or to request additional information. you may reach us at:


Computers in Africa Constructed from E-Waste and Jerrycans

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          West Africa has long been a repository for much of the developed world’s outdated and obsolete electronic waste.  This is due to many factors, including: the capital intensiveness of recycling e-waste, lax labor and environmental laws, and a lack of political will to jumpstart change.  However, in 2013 Kodjo Afate Gnikou did something that had, and still has the potential to alter the relationship between Africa, and its e-waste issue.  In Togo, on the coast of west Africa, Afate designed and built a 3D printer out of spare electronic parts, as well as electronic scrap.  Using crowdfunding, and WoeLab (a space for people to work on things) Afate created a device that could revolutionize the way Africa handles the waste that is brought to its shores. Though Togo is not hit the hardest (Ghana, Benin, Ivory Coast, Nigeria and Liberia) by the waves of e-waste sent by industrialized nations, this breakthrough has serious ramifications for technology in Africa.  
          Soon after Afate’s 3D printer was constructed, WoeLab continued on the path of making new technologies out of discarded e-waste.  By taking parts from trashed computers and servers, a team at WoeLab constructed new computers, which they call  “W.Jies.”  These computers are housed inside Jerry cans, or containers commonly used to transport water, or gasoline.  These devices are currently being sold for approximately $100 and represent a huge shift in the technology dynamic in Africa and offer people in the area a cheaper alternative, with a much smaller environmental footprint.  By reusing electronics in unique ways, instead recycling them in harmful ways Afate helps Togo become a beacon of light in the dark world informal electronics recycling.  These developments are important because reusing discarded items are much more environmentally sound then recycling, due to lower energy expenditures on the physical recycling process, and the increased value of the original production process.  Many companies, such as GreenCitizen, see the value in reuse over recycling, and try their best to promote the best environmental outcome possible.

Make a 3D Printer By Reinventing E-Waste

A large part of the recycling process involves re-purposing. Besides keeping your electronics running for as long as possible, there are many creative things you can do with your old electronics. Some innovators have turned gutted out CRT monitors into fish tanks or cat beds, others have turned keyboards into jewelry or pencil holders. In 2013, Kodjo Afate Gnikou from Togo in West Africa got very creative and built the world’s first 3-D printer…out of electronic waste! He came up with the idea after assembling a 3D printer kit and noticed many complications with the process. His goal was to create a 3D printer that was inexpensive and easy to replicate. Gnikou’s printer only cost him about $100 to make, by reusing parts of old computers, printers, and scanners that he found in a scrap yard. Gnikou hopes that his invention will help make the world notice Africa as a contender in the tech market. “My dream is to give young people hope and to show that Africa, too, has its place on the global market when it comes to technology. We are able to create things.”

E-waste 3D printer inventor, Kodjo Afate Gnikou
Kodjo Afate Gnikou, inventor of a 3D printer made out of e-waste.

Ghana’s capital, Accra, has become one of the many dumping grounds of e-waste from the US and Europe. Hundreds of tons of discarded computers and industrial equipment are dumped each month, including usable spare parts and equipment.

Today, you can find many instructions online detailing how to make your own inexpensive 3D printer out of e-waste. Happy creating!

While it is fantastic to see someone like Gnikou make such great use of the e-waste, it still doesn’t tackle the source of the problem. GreenCitizen exists to make sure electronics don’t get dumped in landfills or sent overseas to places like West Africa.

For more information about keeping electronics out of landfills, give us a call at (650) 493-8700. We also welcome you to stop by our Burlingame EcoCenter where we offer convenient electronics recycling drop off and business pickup services.