Computer Recycling – What To Do With That Used Gadget

Computer recycling and donations; What happens to the devices?

When people come by and drop off their used computers and electronics, after we’ve got some information we need to provide a tax receipt (if applicable), the conversation often turns to the downstream fate of that beloved family kitchen Dual Core running Vista, or Dad’s old laptop – which became the first-born’s emergency laptop and then – very briefly – the youngest kid’s laptop (who rode it down the stairs…that one time).

The short answer is, eventually, the donated devices will be either;

a) refurbished and redeployed as part of our programs or sold through wholesale and retail channels or;

b) recycled responsibly using a Basil Convention and OES certified local partner

In both cases, the proceeds of these transactions are directed back into the charity in order to support our subsidized computer programs, free Wi-Fi projects, and indigenous youth skills development programs. Since 2014, between 25% – 30% of donations cannot be refurbished, and are diverted to recycling.

Refurbishing Computers:

Getting a computer ready for redeployment in one of our programs, or for retail, starts with a simple test: does the unit turn on or not? 

If it fails the power test, it could be for a number of reasons. If the hardware still supports the current operating systems (Windows 10), and has at least a good cosmetic appearance, we’ll disassemble and remove the hard drive if present, and RAM.   

We take data security very seriously – even if someone says they’ve deleted all the data on their hard drives, we’ll do it again. We use a proprietary version of proven open source software that meets an industry standard on data media sanitization, and for a fee we can issue a certificate of data sanitization. 

With the tested chassis, hard drive and RAM separated, the computers are then assigned to one of three streams: 1) Programs like reSTART, reSOURCE or as required 2) Retail: we have sales and service centres in Toronto (Evergreen Brick Works) and Peterborough (251 Charlotte) where you’ll find excellent refurbished laptops, desktops, both Windows and Mac, full warranties – and a great selection of peripherals – and every dollar you spend helps support the charity 3) Wholesale: we have a network of reputable distributors and wholesalers who help us process and monetize large volume donations. The proceeds from these sales directly offset unavoidable overhead.

Computer Recycling: 

For donations that after some inspection and testing are determined to be unsuitable for reuse – either due to age, operating system or condition – we consolidate the items at our locations, pack onto skid and gaylord container and arrange for trucking to an OES certified local recycler.

At these recyclers – imagine the area of two soccer fields, dis-assembly lines and loading bays – e waste is sorted by metal and plastic material density, further dismantled or fed into a powerful grinder that converts these items into fairly uniform quarter-size pieces that are then remarketed into the supply chain and used as raw material inputs for smelters, aggregate makers and other industries.

While the data on the energy cost of e-waste recycling is inconclusive, one can easily contemplate the energy required to fuel the machinery that ships, stacks, sorts and grinds the used electronics. We prioritize refurbishment and reuse in all cases and look for innovative ways to extend the useful life of all items donated.

Here’s a thought: by far the most common donated items that is most frequently un-reusable is the personal printer. Repairs and parts replacement aren’t costs-effective when toners and ink can be 50% of the cost of a new printer. If someone could find a way to repair and reuse personal printers we would could really move the needle of e-waste production!  

So hopefully that takes some of the mystery out of what happens when you drop off your computers, peripherals etc. at a reBOOT Canada location – and we hope to see you there soon!

For more information on our selection of used computers, call (416) 534-6017, email, or visit us in-store today.
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