Picking Through Recyclable Materials Inside Computers

4 December 2017
 Categories: Construction & Contractors, Blog

Do you need to get rid of an old computer? Are you a business with a lot of computers or general electronics that need to be tossed out? You could be throwing out some valuable materials if you're not taking advantage of competitive offers from commercial recycling companies who handle multiple recycling markets. Here are a few materials inside computers that are worth salvaging, just to give you an idea of what to expect when you tear the systems apart.

The Computer Case

Although many modern computers have cases that look like plastic covers, there is still an underlying metal framework. Most computer chassis/frames are made of aluminum, although some computers designed for industries with impact hazards or computers designed for rugged operations may use steel.

The cases can be stacked relatively easily when the plastic outer casing is removed, but if you want to break the case into smaller parts, the tools needed may vary. Some are held together with standard cross tip screws, while others may be riveted together and will require a rivet remover. Some may be held together with crude sliding tabs that need to be pressed and pulled apart, so be sure to have safety gloves used to handle metal in case of sharp edges.

Hard Drives Versus Solid State Drives

One major computer scrapping point aside from gold and platinum is rare earth magnets. For multiple decades of the home and office computer industry, hard drives have been the normal storage option, and rare earth magnets are used inside hard drives to hold certain components together.

Solid State Drives (SSDs) are a new, faster, but more expensive storage option that is augmenting hard drives. This causes confusion because both technologies are still used, and years after assuming that hard drive technology would fall into obscurity like the floppy disk and microfiche reader, hard drives are still used because they're good enough for the average computer at a lower price.

Keep in mind that hard drives have moving parts and rare earth magnets, while SSDs are simply printed circuit boards with sometimes metal cases. Both can be recycled, but don't spend time digging through SSDs for magnets.

Heat Sinks

To keep computers cool, heat sinks are used to draw heat away from hot components such as the processor. Heat travels through heat-conductive metal blocks, and the blocks include tall fins that are cooled by guiding air through the grooves with a fan.

Aluminum is the usual heat sink material, but copper heat sinks are available as well. There are even aluminum and copper-linked heat sinks used for some ambitious cooling projects while maintaining a budget.

Be careful when handling heat sinks, as their fins are often sharp enough to tear skin by simply rubbing a finger across the edge or working hastily and roughly too close to the fines. Contact a commercial recycling company to discuss other components and materials inside computers that may fetch a nice recycling price.