Spring Cleaning: How to Get Rid of Those Dust Collectors

I'm going to talk about an issue that's not directly related to scripting, but I think it's one that you might run into: what to do with that old computer sitting at home gathering dust. My dust collector is an old Apple Macintosh system (and I do mean old--it's Mac OS 9).

I first thought about donating my computer system to a charity such as Goodwill. According to Goodwill's Web site some of its stores accept computer donations. Unfortunately, none of the Goodwill stores near me accepted them. I did find one charity that accepted newer computers, but my computer definitely didn't fall into that category. That's when I decided I'd be better off trying to find a computer recycler. (Although the city in which I live hasn't banned computers from the landfill yet, I wanted to be environmentally conscious.) Recyclers remove useful parts, remove hazardous materials (e.g., mercury, lead), and break down the rest of the computer for recycling (e.g., glass, plastics).

Some communities have sponsored recycling drives for computers. For example, the City of Worcester, the Regional Environmental Council of Central Massachusetts, and Metech International are jointly sponsoring a "Free Household Recycling Event" on April 21 in Worcester, Massachusetts. People can drop off not only computer equipment but also televisions, microwaves, and other electronic equipment. Unfortunately, I couldn't find any scheduled recycling drives near me, so my search continued.

I found some companies that offer computer-recycling programs for consumers. For example, the Lenovo ThinkPlus Recycling Service lets you recycle any manufacturer's PC equipment, including processors, monitors, printers, and optional attachments. The company decides whether to refurbish and donate the equipment to a charity (in which case you get a tax- deductible receipt) or recycle it. You provide your own box (26 x 26 x 26 inches maximum) and packing materials. Anything you can fit into the box is one charge: $30, which includes shipping. (The maximum weight limit is 69 pounds per box.) I discovered that this was a deal. I found one company that charged per piece. For example, it charged $22.75 for a PC processor, $29.95 for a 19-inch monitor, and $22.75 for a dot-matrix printer. Although the prices included shipping, you had to supply your own boxes and packing materials. It definitely pays to shop around if you're looking for a computer recycler!

I was thinking about going with the Lenovo ThinkPlus Recycling Service when I ran across the National Technology Recycling Program (NTRP). This nonprofit group has a database of computer recycling organizations on its Web site. When I search by state, I found that Wisconsin's Department of Corrections has a computer-recycling program that both residents and companies can use. In this program, incarcerated individuals are employed and trained in how to refurbish and recycle computers. State residents can drop off their computers at designated drop boxes. The only charge is $10 for a monitor.

I decided to go with the Department of Corrections' computer-recycling program. Not only will I be keeping my computer out of the landfill but I also might be helping people learn a trade and possibly turn their lives around.

I will, however, take the precautions that everyone should take when donating computers--that is, getting rid of any personal data with a disk- cleaning utility or similar tool. On the Microsoft Web page "Microsoft tips for donating computer equipment" you can find a list of disk-cleaning utilities for Windows and Macs as well as other helpful information.

The "Microsoft tips for donating computer equipment" Web page also includes a link to TechSoup. If you have a newer computer that you want to donate, you can probably find groups that will refurbish and donate them to charities. TechSoup provides a searchable database that you can use to find such groups. Go to TechSoup and click the Donate Hardware Recycling box in the lower left side of the Web page. After you enter your search radius, you'll get a list of groups. Unfortunately, the listing includes only a brief write-up and contact information, so you need to either go to the group's Web site or call the group to get the information you need.

I guess getting rid of dust collectors can be a lot of work!

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