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Don't Toss Your PC in the Trash

Recycling a PC means knowing where it goes after it leaves your hands.

Personal computers might be largely safe for everyday use -- aside from the danger of overheated batteries in some models -- but they're poison when it comes to throwing them away.

The EPA estimates that 15% of discarded computers wind up in landfills every year, where they leak toxins like lead, mercury and even arsenic into the soil and potentially the groundwater. Dumping PCs (and other electronic goods like cell phones) also prevents valuable materials like copper, gold and aluminum from being recovered and recycled. (Blogger Ecogeek has more information on recycling cell phones.)

So when I recently brought home a sleek new Apple (AAPL - Get Report) iMac, the home-office equivalent of a Ferrari convertible, I began a search for the best route to take with the old jalopy it replaced.

A host of options are available these days for recycling and reusing computers and other electronics -- some even give you a small financial benefit. Green Citizen explores some of them in its electronics blog. That means there's little excuse for letting out-of-date machines clutter up the basement anymore, and there's absolutely no excuse for kicking them to the curb.

I didn't want to dump my old reliable in the trash, of course, and I certainly didn't want it joining the 75% of PCs that the EPA estimates are out there gathering dust in garages, basements and storerooms. That left me to choose between selling, recycling or donating.

Ideally, I wanted a solution that would be both environmentally responsible and convenient. All the better if it sent a little money my way.

I'd squeezed a good seven years out of my previous blue iMac by goosing the memory, adding a wireless modem and upgrading the operating system and software. But, still, at best I had a 2004 computer in a 2000 shell and a quick cruise around eBay (EBAY) indicated that if I sold it at all it might fetch a paltry $50.

Since I'm not a regular seller and couldn't be bothered with the Web posting and shipping, I'd probably let the nearest iSoldIt store do it for me, which means I might recoup half of what it sold for, and I would have to get it to the store without breaking it. It might be worthwhile for a newer machine, but for mine the solution offered too much hassle and too little financial gain.

Plus, I'd have no idea what happened to the computer when it left my sight.

Apple recycles its computers and iPods at no charge, and even gives a 10% discount on your next iPod if you bring an old one to an Apple Store for disposal. That's super easy and the discount is a nice bonus if you know you're in the market for a new MP3 player anyway.

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