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If I have confidential information on my computer system, what questions should I ask of the donation recipients regarding data destruction?

If you have decided to donate some of your unused computer equipment, one of the first things you will want to do is make sure any confidential information is deleted from your hard drive. If you accidentally leave any compromising information on your computer, you could very well wind up being a victim of identity theft. Even if you think you’ve deleted all of your sensitive files, it is very difficult to be sure. It’s nearly impossible to remember everywhere you’ve saved credit card information, online passwords, emails, social security numbers or any other critical information that you would not want to make public.

What Electronic Devices Should You Recycle?

In today’s market, electronic devices are continually being created and upgraded. Every time the latest edition of that new special device hits the market, we are tempted to upgrade… and we often do. This leaves us with a large amount of old electronics taking up valuable space in our home or business.

Reasons to Recycle Your Electronics Securely

Do you have an old, out-of-date or unused computer sitting in your closet or basement? If you do, then rest assured you are not alone. Over 2 million tons worth of used gadgets, electronics, televisions and computers are tossed out every year. Furthermore, nearly 130 million cellular phones are taken out of service each year.

With the never-ending supply of the next “latest and greatest” electronic item to hit the market, people are constantly replacing their outdated models, and it is doubtful this trend will subside anytime soon, if ever. Because of this, electronics are becoming a prominent waste stream, and a real headache for our environment.

E-Waste Management and Processing Techniques

With the constant advancement of our world’s technology, electronic equipment is rendered obsolete in the blink of an eye. These broken, discarded and obsolete products are known as e-waste, and it all too often ends up in the trash. This is a very poor way of dealing with these items for a few reasons. The first reason is that these items can be recycled and have many more years of productive usage, in another form.

The Benefits of Recycling Electronics

Each year, nearly 50 metric tons worth of electronic waste is generated throughout the  world. The EPA indicates that the United States accounts for 3 million of these tons every year. Part of the reason is that a typical state in the U.S. has nearly four million computers being used in residential and business locations.

That just accounts for computers, and doesn’t begin to take into account the hundreds of other types of electronics we use each day. These devices become obsolete quickly, and are replaced by newer technology. Those outdated items are too often thrown out, when they could easily be recycled. The benefits to recycling electronics are too many to mention, but here are a few that should be more than enough to convince you to start recycling your electronic devices.

The Growing Problems of E-Waste

It is very difficult to account for all of the e-waste across the entire globe because every country deals with e-waste differently. For example, the European Union, EU, has over 10 categories for e-waste and Japan has just four product categories (washing machines, televisions, air conditioning units, and refrigerators). Every country deals with it differently.

What is E-Waste and Why does it Matter?

E-waste Defined

E-waste, electronic waste, is most easily defined as discarded electronic equipment, such as computers, televisions, stereo systems, electrical components, and mobile phones. These electronic devices have outlived their usable life cycle, and can no longer be used for their original intended purpose. However, they can be reused or recycled into a new product for future use.

Roadblock to Recycling Computers and Electronics

Earth 911 recently ran a poll that proved to be most interesting. They asked participants “What is the top factor that keeps you from recycling your unused computers?”

Here are the results:

  • 41%: Worried that personal information will be compromised.
  • 35%: Not sure where to bring their computer for recycling.
  • 11%: Don’t think they have the time to recycle.

EPA Electronics Recycling Facts

Here are some electronics recycling facts from the Environmental Protection Agency:

  • For every 1 million cell phones that are recycled, 35,274 pounds of copper, 772 pounds of silver, 75 pounds of gold, and 33 pounds of palladium can be recovered.
  • Recycling 1 million laptops saves the energy equivalent to the electricity used by 3,657 U.S. homes in a year.

More Mind Numbing Electronics Recycling Facts

  • According to Wirefly.org, the average cell phone user gets a new cell phone every 18 months.
  • In the U.S., we toss more than 100 million cell phones in the trash every year.
  • The EPA reports that over 112,000 computers are discarded every single day, in the U.S. alone. That’s 41.1 million desktops and laptop computers per year.