Earth Day 2020: How to safely dispose of your computer

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April 22, 2020 marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, which was launched in 1970 with the mission of building an environmental movement to bring change for the planet and its inhabitants. The theme of this year’s campaign focuses on climate action, aiming to diversify, educate and activate the climate movement worldwide.


One of the biggest environmental challenges that we are facing right now is the issue of e-waste, which stems from the vast quantity of electronic equipment that is discarded across the globe. Forty million metric tons of e-waste is disposed of worldwide each year, which is equivalent to throwing away 800 laptops every second. Only 12.5% of this waste is recycled, and the majority is buried or incinerated in landfills, with the toxins contained within the applications going on to pollute our land, air and water.


However, it is not just the planet that is threatened by the unsafe disposal of electronics; throwing away your computer without correctly wiping its memory can also lead to cybersecurity issues down the line. Computers are filled with personal data, from sensitive documents to financial information, and if the correct procedures are not followed, this information can be recovered and may fall into the wrong hands. So, to mark this landmark year for Earth Day, we have taken a quick look at what steps people should take before getting rid of their computers or laptops.


If the time has come to say goodbye to your computer, step one is to back up all of your important data. This can be done online, using cloud storage services, or through an external hard drive; but the important thing is to make sure that you have a copy of all files that are relevant, or that may be relevant in the future.


Once this is done, you can  log out of your accounts, before wiping all of your files and uninstalling all programs installed on the computer. Next, perform a factory reset in order to completely wipe your hard drive. The exact process for completing a system reset varies from system to system, so be sure to look up the corresponding procedure for your device. Finally, if possible, remove the hard drive from your computer and physically destroy it.


When it comes to disposing of the computer itself, there are a few options to consider. Many retailers operate trade-in plans in which you can get a discount off your next computer by handing in your old device; so, if you’re looking to save some money, this could be the way to go. In some countries, the vendor that sold you your computer is legally obligated to help you safely dispose of it, so its worth checking with the company whereyou bought the device to see if they can help you.


If these options are not viable, there are many charities that accept donations of electronic devices. By donating your computer, you allow someone else to makeuse of it, and you eliminate the risk of it ending up in a landfill. Lastly, if you can’t donate or hand in your laptop, take it to an electronics recycler or your local council, who will be able to dispose of the device responsibly. By following these steps, you can ensure that your old computer doesn’t threaten you or the planet.