The ultimate guide to recycling IT electricals

Did you know that most IT equipment can be reused or broken down into parts? This means that when possible you should always try to recycle your old IT equipment. Read through our guide to find out the best way to do this.

Whether you are upgrading your IT materials or need to dispose of excess computers in preparation for an office move, all business owners will need to get rid of their company electricals at some point. Whatever the reason, it is essential that all electronics are recycled properly, and not just thrown out along with the rubbish. Though we’re more clued up than ever when it comes to recycling paper and plastic, many of us are unsure how to do the same with our computers. This handy guide to everything there is to know about recycling IT electricals should help bring your business up to speed.

IT server with blue cables

Why should you recycle IT electricals?

Our appetite for technology means it’s never been more important to recycle our gadgets when we no longer need them, which has led to computer equipment making up a significant part of the UK’s waste. Rapid technological advancement ensures there are always newer, more impressive models on the market, while the relatively low cost of computers allows us to replace them more frequently. As a result, approximately 12.5 million computers have been thrown into UK landfills in the last five years.

Beyond simply being incredibly wasteful, dumping IT equipment also has significant environmental implications. Monitors, hard drives, printers, and circuit boards all contain lead, mercury, chromium, and beryllium. Toxic chemicals like these can leach into soil and water, or evaporate into the air, potentially harming humans if they enter the food chain. Traces of flame retardants (present in many computer components) have previously been found in human breast milk, polar bears, and whales. There are also increasing concerns about the pollution caused by many of the hazardous chemicals found in IT equipment, which is a particularly prevalent problem in Africa, Asia, and South America.

As long as your device uses a plug or batteries, needs charging, or has a picture of a crossed out wheelie bin on it, it should be recycled, and thrown away separately from other office waste. If you have purchased IT electricals for your business, it is your responsibility to make sure they are disposed of correctly.

Holding a mother board of computer

How does computer recycling work?

Recycling IT electricals involves extracting certain materials found in computers and using them to create something brand new. Typically a PC is made of 23% plastic, 50% metal (some of which contain iron), 12% electronic boards, and 15% glass. A single computer can also contain up to 2kg of lead, as well as valuable elements including gold, silver, platinum, and copper. It’s this complex mixture of materials that make PCs harder to recycle than many other products.

Computer equipment is taken to a reprocessing plant and shredded into small pieces. Strong magnets are used to remove ferrous metals like steel, and non-magnetic metals are separated using an electrical current called an eddy current. The different types of plastic are identified and sorted using a near-infrared light, while glass is washed to remove any impurities, crushed, and melted. Each raw material is then sent to be made into a new product, including jewellery and furniture as well as new computers and laptops.

What should I do before recycling my computers?

It is essential to remove all data from any IT equipment that you plan to recycle. Failure to do so leaves that data open to being accessed by someone else, which is particularly dangerous for business owners. If data is not properly deleted, you could end up breaching data protection laws, or even open your business up to fraud.

Ensure that all the files you require are backed up on an external hard drive, a new computer, or uploaded to the cloud. You’ll also need to record the licence keys of any software you wish to reinstall on a new computer.

Start by resetting all computers to their factory settings, which revokes access to any files and programmes that were manually added to the device. It is still possible to extract potentially sensitive data following a factory reset, however, so you should also run data-shredding software across all the hardware that needs recycling.

The easiest way to protect your data is by physically removing the hard drive before recycling a computer. You could either smash it to bits until it’s unrecoverable, using a hammer to break the ‘platters’ containing the data, or put the hard drive into an external caddy which you can purchase online. This will convert all of your data onto a USB hard drive, which can then be accessed like a regular external hard drive.

Blue and red electric cable

How should I recycle my office electricals?

The EU introduced WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment) regulations in 2007, bringing about significant implications for providers of electrical and electronic equipment. The legislation demanded that sellers offer customers a means of disposing of their electrical and electronic equipment when they sell them a new version of the same item. This service is best suited to people looking to dispose of a single, domestic appliance, but is inconvenient if you need to get rid of multiple pieces of equipment as quickly as possible.

Professional WEEE disposal providers take away the stress of recycling office electricals, allowing you to focus your time and energy on the day-to-day runnings of your business instead. Unfortunately, there are plenty of waste disposal scammers out there who don’t comply with WEEE legislation or don’t carry their own Waste Carriers License. It’s important to ensure you are working with a legitimate business in order to ensure your office electricals are disposed of in a safe and appropriate way.

The dedicated IT recycling and WEEE disposal service at Evolve Relocation is a safe, secure, and sustainable way to remove all computer materials. Our eco-friendly approach guarantees zero landfill waste and we provide certification as evidence of data destruction across your devices. This means you do not need to spend time wiping computer data yourself.

Our service is particularly good for business owners who may also have IT electricals that do not need to be recycled. We take charge of selling any usable parts or devices and save you money by deducting any profits from your bill. Thanks to our savvy project managers, you can be sure that all your office electrical recycling will be handled ethically, with speed and efficiency, guaranteeing the complete removal of all personal and private company data.