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
When I bought the new desktop, the company emailed me a FedEx ( FDX)barcode that I could print out and bring to my nearest shipping center so that mailing it to them would be on their tab, too. Even though some of the parts will still wind up as waste, it's a reasonably responsible choice, environmentally. Apple keeps all its recycling operations in the U.S. and is too focused on protecting its brand image to screw it up. It wouldn't cost me anything, but I wouldn't make any money, either, and there's the hassle factor: While it doesn't matter if the unit gets where it's going in one piece, I still have to box it up and get it to FedEx.
Dell ( DELL), HP ( HPQ), and Gateway ( GTW) also have recycling and trade-in programs -- and the machines don't always have to be the same brand as the one you just bought. Goodwill is my reliable fall back for getting rid of old electronics. A spokesperson said the organization makes every effort to monetize donations, so if it can't sell your machine in the store it will next try to direct it toward one of its own refurbishment programs or recycle it for cash (they have a partnership with Dell for this). But she said that some electronic goods still find their way to the dump if nothing else can be done with them.
I would have to drive the machine to my nearest Goodwill store, but I could fold it in with one of my regular seasonal runs and get rid of some other electronic odds and ends at the same time. Also, I'd get a tax deduction. The
IRS Web site and myriad Google searches turned up little advice on how much of a deduction I could take. The best I could discern is that the IRS will let you deduct the fair market value of goods donated, but it doesn't offer any guidelines on how determine that. I could probably deduct the $50 I see similar machines selling for on eBay if not a little more. It's not a bad option, but I'd like to know with more certainty where my PC will wind up. My last possibility was a more targeted donation. A group called Non-Profit Computing matches computer donors with schools, community centers and not-for-profits that need technology. With a quick call to its offices I found out that a revamped computer like mine would be easy to place and most likely used for several years. I can get my tax deduction, see if the organization can use any of my spare peripherals (a zip drive maybe?) to goose that deduction higher, and they'd probably be willing to pick the stuff up at my house, so no schlepping required. Reuse is better than recycling because it keeps the nonrecyclable parts out of the trash longer and prevents (or in my case offsets) new consumption. A small tax deduction is the best financial gain I'll get from this, and I can't argue with door-to-door service. For me, this is the best option and I'll be making arrangements for a computer pickup. Those in other cities who choose to follow suit can do an Internet search using the keywords "computer donations" and their city to find similar groups in their communities, such as NextStep Recycling in Eugene, Ore.