Q: I have a laptop that is about 10 years old, and it is completely beyond repair. What can I do with it? Is it OK to just throw it in the trash?
A: NO! Stop! If you've already put it out for the trash, stop reading this right now, and go bring it back inside! Never, ever, throw computers, or almost any electronics, in the trash.
First of all, you need to protect yourself and clear any personal data off of that thing before you release it into the wild. I'm not talking about a simple, quick re-formatting. I mean such a thorough scrubbing of your data that it would take the entire cast of CSI to recreate it. When you delete something from your hard drive, it isn't really erased. The computer just pretends it's not there.
To really delete a file from your computer's hard drive, you have to write something over that file. There are a few programs that will securely delete your files for you. If it's a Windows PC you're getting rid of, use a program like Eraser or the Drive Wiper in CCleaner to completely eradicate your data. If you're tossing out a Mac, there's a program called Permanent Eraser.
Once you've taken care of protecting yourself, you need to protect the environment. Computers are loaded with toxic metals and materials that are dangerous to the environment and need to be handled appropriately. Some cities and counties have curbside pickup of e-waste, but you should never just toss your computer in with the regular trash.
Check with your municipality's website to find out where you can drop off your computer so that it is disposed of properly. Here in Jacksonville e-waste can be dropped off Tuesday through Saturday at the city's Household Hazardous Waste Facility located at 2675 Commonwealth Ave.
Of course as they say, one man’s toxic trash is another man’s treasure. There are companies that will take computers and monitors apart and extract the metals out of them to sell as scrap. So before you just throw that old junker away, you might be able to get a few bucks out of it, even if it is beyond all hope of repair.
You do have to be careful though. There are several companies that will ship your computer and monitor overseas where they will be melted down to get the metals out. This is very dangerous and very unsafe for the workers. Make sure that the company you are dealing with is handling your e-waste responsibly.