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Author: Peter Cheer

Reduce e-waste through donating old computer devices

Updated Monday, 28 February 2022

Reduce, reuse, recycle. Reduce means reducing your use of items that lead to waste. Since 2000, amounts of e-waste have grown from 20 million to 50 million tonnes per year.

A report from the Solving the E-waste Problem (StEP) Initiative predicts that under a baseline scenario, the volume of e-waste will more than double by 2050, to approximately 111 million tonnes per year.

Manufacturers can and should make devices last longer, easier to repair, easier to recycle and more energy efficient. Moves to do this have started with ‘right to repair’ laws (although they do not cover computers or smartphones yet) and WEEE regulations (waste electrical and electronic equipment) but there are also things we can do now.

A pile of old discard laptop devices on a shop shelf

Reasons to donate

Old computers can often have some life left in them. Here are a few reasons why a donation is worth considering.

  • 75% of the fossil fuels and energy used by a computer are consumed in making it. Extending the computer's lifespan through reuse means more return on that environmental cost.
  • Every usable computer put into a landfill or recycling is a missed opportunity to provide technology and tools to individuals and organisations who need them.
  • Donating is suitable for any relatively new or repairable equipment.

Hardware donation tips

Determine if your old computer can be reusedIf your computer is less than five years old, there is a good chance it can be put to use by someone else. A computer in regular use has a lifespan of seven to eight years – of course, if the computer has been kept unused in storage for some time, this can be longer. 

Extending an old computer's lifespan through reuse is the best of all the different disposal alternatives for the environment.

Consider donating newer equipment to a refurbisher. You may be able to donate equipment directly to a favourite local school or charity. Keep in mind that most organisations have very specific technology needs, and a donated computer may not be a good fit. 

Refurbishers could be a better option, as they are better equipped to repair and upgrade older computers. They will ensure that equipment works well, runs legal software copies and that any e-waste is disposed of properly. They will pass on ready-to-use equipment to those who need it, often at little or no cost to the recipient.


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