Recycling Computers – The Process

Hoping to find out more about recycling computers?

In a previous article, we have covered the reasons for recycling old computers and the various tips you can adopt in order to recycle your computer. In this article, we will focus on the process of recycling – what happens in the recycling facilities for old computers.

The computer recycling process follows the general process of recycling – collection, sorting, processing and use in the manufacture of new products that are then purchased by consumers. We will elaborate on each of the stages for recycling computers below.


This stage of the process of recycling computers involves the transfer of the unwanted computer from its owner to the recycling company.

There are different collection practices for different places and different recycling companies. Some collection points for recycling computers pay computer owners for recycling their unwanted computers; others charge computer owners for disposing of their unwanted units at the collection centres. Some collection centres are run by pure recyclers, who process the old computers and sell the usable parts and materials to product manufacturers. Some collection centres are actually set up by computer manufacturers – you get to trade in your old computer and pay a little less for your new unit purchased from the same manufacturer. In this way, these computer manufacturers get to recover some of their production material, at the same time as they promote the sale of their new computer units.

However the means of collection, computers and the unwanted electronic appliances need to be separated from other recyclables like paper, plastic and glass bottles etc during the collection process. There is usually a special section in the collection centre that deals specifically with unwanted computers and other electronic appliances.

Sorting, Processing and Reuse in production

The collected computers then need to be sorted before proceeding further in the process of recycling computers.

Test for potential reuse

First of all, the computer sets are tested for potential reuse. If a set is still usable or in a relatively good working condition, and the system is not outdated or requires just minor upgrading, the set is likely to be refurbished and then donated or sold. Such units could be donated to charities or the less privileged, or sold at a second hand computer shop or in a less developed country where there is a demand for second hand computers.

Manual disassembly

If the cost of refurbishing a particular set greatly outweighs the expected selling price of a functional computer set, then that set is most likely to be taken apart into its basic components, for example, the hard disks, DVD drives, modem, speakers, sound or graphic cards, etc. This disassembly process is usually carried out manually, by trained personnel so as to protect the usability of the components.

The functioning components are then sold, for example to consumers looking for good second hand deals, or even to computer manufacturers for refurbishment and use in the manufacture of computer sets.

Hazardous components, such as the rechargeable batteries, need to be removed and disposed of properly.

Separation into material composition

With the reusable and hazardous components of the computer sets removed, the remains of the computer sets are further broken down by material composition, for example, plastic (e.g casing), wires, metals, circuit boards etc, in the process of recycling computers.

The various materials may then be sent to the respective material recyclers (known as secondary recyclers) for further processing. For example, the metals parts could then be sent to the metal recycling company for further processing. On the other hand, the plastic casing and parts would be sent to the plastic recyclers, and the plastic material could eventually be used in the manufacture of plastic products like plastic trays, etc.

Disposal of non-recyclable parts

Whatever remains that cannot be recycled are then disposed of – sent to a landfill or incinerator.

Purchase of products made of recycled materials

For the recycling loop to be closed there must be demand for goods that are made from recycled materials or items.

That means that the process of recycling computers must include this final stage where computer sets, assembled using refurbished computer components, or made out of recycled computer materials, are being marketed and sold in the market, and finally purchased by consumers.

This process of computer recycling is also often applicable to many of the electronic items we send for recycling. Read more about electronics recycling.

Read about tips to apply when recycling your old computers, as well as interesting statistics on computer and electronics recycling.

Return from this page on Recycling Computers – The Process to page on Interesting Recycling Facts.

Return from this page on Recycling Computers – The Process to All Recycling Facts Homepage.

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