Recycling and the future of old technology


Will technology affect the future of recycling?

Here's a question to consider: When you decide to upgrade to the newest computer or television or smart phone, what happens to the old one?

The answer is much more complicated than one would imagine, and the growing prevalence of new technology, coupled with most Brits' desire to want the latest version of every gadget, has posed a significant problem for landfill sites. Electronic waste is harder to break down due to the processes used to manufacturer it, but still many people simply throw away valuable technology to make room for the next best thing.

There are several solutions to the challenge of how to discard your technology, though. The simplest answer, and perhaps the one that does the most good, is to donate your old television sets, computers, and even phones to a nonprofit organisation or a charity that has the time, resources, and manpower to figure out where your old goods can be put to good use. Another alternative is to donate them directly to churches, underprivileged schools, or other institutions that could use them. Consumers can also sometimes return their used equipment to large office supply retailers, who will usually accept any type of equipment, regardless of where it was purchased.

All of these solutions are low-cost or no cost to the donator. In addition, UK citizens may soon have the advantage of getting a tax break for donating computers, as organisations like the Charity Technology Trust push the government to include technological donations into tax law. The trust maintains that as the UK government aims to provide access to technology to underprivileged sectors of the population, such as impoverished families and seniors, then a donation scheme could contribute significantly towards that goal.

Even still, these obsolete items have given the electronics industry new life in some cases. With the growing need to recycle computers and other equipment, something that is not easily done by the average person, new companies have cropped up that can handle these recycling requests either for free or for a nominal cost. This is because many times those companies involved can actually use parts of the unwanted equipment, such as the precious metals used to construct computer motherboards. This kind of arrangement presents a win-win situation for all parties involved.

In addition to the question of where the computers go when they are no longer wanted, recycling enthusiasts have also posed the question of how the ever-evolving entertainment industry will impact recycling. The 90s and early 2000s were the age of the compact disc and the digital video disc, both millimetre-thick constructions of polycarbonate plastic. They may be small and relatively simple-looking, but these discs can take as long as hundreds of years to decompose, posing a real concern for landfill space.

Whilst recycling this special type of plastic is still not prevalent within the UK, there are a few places that will accept them. However, there may be an even better solution to recycling unwanted discs as Brits convert their music libraries to a digital format. Services like MusicMagpie indicate a new trend amongst disc recyclers who wish to pass on their entertainment. This site, which is available in both the UK and Germany, allows users to sell DVDs online for cash, as well as CDs.

Ultimately, the question of where technology goes when something bigger and better comes along has many varied answers. As the world becomes increasingly controlled by computers and digital formats, people will continue to want the latest and the greatest appliances. However, as the Charity Technology Trust and MusicMagpie demonstrate, the most important conclusion to be made when trying to figure out how to recycle these complex machines comes from the very core principle of recycling: finding a new use for an old item.

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