A Deeper Understanding Of Computer Recycling Potential

Copper from the wires and gold from the electrical traces are more well known, but there are a lot more recyclable materials in bigger amounts (and sometimes, greater value) to be found. Whether you're recycling parts for your own scrap piles or turning the material in as soon as you remove them, take the time to understand what you could be pulling from each system.

The Case Is The First Eye-Catcher

Before taking apart anything, the case presents a staple of recycling: aluminum. Business computers are often made out of aluminum while industrial/rugged systems may have aluminum or steel cases.   

Don't be fooled by the plastic or rubber outer shell. Although the metal case size may be smaller in recent years to accommodate more decoration at a lower cost, the inner frame is still made out of metal for protective purposes. If you need the metal for a scrap pile, the outer shell can be removed without much trouble.

Most case coverings are held in place by a basic set of plastic tabs or a few screws. If necessary, the covering can be ripped off, but make sure to wear safety gloves in case the plastic tears sharply. Safety goggles may be a good idea as well, just in case plastic parts snap off in the air.

When carrying an open computer case, be wary of the unfinished, sharp edges on all surfaces. The inside of the computer is often cut by an industrial process and is not rounded off unless the computer was specifically ordered with rolled or dulled edges. 

Hard Drive Recyclable Material

There are many computer components inside the case that can be recycled, but the hard drive stands out for two interesting reasons: more aluminum and magnets. 

The hard drive itself is covered by an aluminum or steel case. The case is quite thick and vacuum sealed, as even a small speck of dust could lead to scratches on the sensitive platters used to store information (data). A screwdriver (small/jeweler's size) can be used to remove the screws and board to access the inner materials.

Although the platters are shiny, you'll need to consult the specific manufacturer for that drive (found on the case's label) to find out what the platters are coated with. Nickel, palladium, platinum and other materials are often paired with Ruthenium to form an alloy, but there isn't an industry standard more dominant than the other. 

Most notable among the recyclable materials is the cluster of rare earth magnets, which are used to hold certain parts together instead of screws that may come loose due to vibrations. These magnets are sought after by recycling centers and hobbyists alike.

Contact a recycling professional for recycling programs tailored to your specific computer scrap recycling opportunities.