What happens when your new computer hits retirement age? Recycling high-tech. Today, on Engineering Works!
We can do so many cool things with our new computers that we never stop to think about what to do with them when they get old. Engineers are thinking about it a lot these days.
From the monitor to the hard, drive, your computer is full of hazardous waste waiting to happen. Listen to this list – antimony, arsenic, cadmium, hexavalent chromium, lead, mercury, polyvinyl chloride. More than eight-and-a-half-million tons of potentially hazardous stuff over the last 20 years or so.
Engineers are working on the problem from both ends. Before computers go into production, and after you get rid of them. Design engineers at one major computer maker now check out how materials in the new machine can be recycled and how long it takes to take one apart for recycling – before it ever goes into production.
They’re also working out how to make it easier to take apart the new computer so it’ll be easier to recycle. Plastic is more difficult to recycle than metal, so some manufacturers are replacing plastic components with metal and cutting down on the different kinds of plastic. Different kinds of plastic need different processes to recycle, you know.
It isn’t just computers. We toss out about 100 million cell phones every year with a lot of the same problems as computers.
It’s time for us to get out of here before somebody recycles us.