If you're thinking about tossing out a few old computers, it's worth knowing what's inside before sending it away as a whole unit. Although many recycling centers have standard rates for entire computer units, you may have a larger amount of a specific material that could fetch a better recycling pay rate than with the whole unit. The components inside the computer may still be useful as well. Here's a few things to look out for before tossing out an entire computer.
Recyclable Metals In Computers
Aluminum is the first metal you'll run into most computers, since the case and inner chassis is made of folded, machine-cut metal. Storage is simple if you have enough room, since most computers can be stacked on each other without much change. At most, you'll have to take the plastic or acrylic outer molds off of the system to reveal the standard rectangle shape.
The heat sink is also made of of aluminum, but copper heat sinks are becoming more popular in more than just high performance systems. Be careful when removing heat sinks, as the thin fins are sharp enough to slice fingers with just a gentle brush against the edges.
Gold is a popular material to look for, but it's not actually in high numbers inside computers. The contacts on certain boards such as video cards and motherboard traces are gold, but they're very thin and only worth the effort if you're scrapping dozens of computer per day throughout the year. The processor also has gold in the form of pins, which requires precision pulling if you want to get it all. Being rough with it will just leave small stumps behind, and cracking open the processor reveals that the contacts aren't just socketed in place.
Valuable Components In Newer Computers
If you're getting rid of a computer made in the last 10 years, there may be some resale value left. Although there have been major leaps in modern technology within a decade, not all computer users bother with the latest tech. There's a level of "good enough" that you could sell to.
Working motherboards, power supplies, and random access memory (RAM) sticks/modules are the easiest to recycle. Motherboards can be removed by unplugging all components and removing the screws, and the same thing goes for the power supply. RAM can be removed by pressing the tabs on each side of the memory stick, and RAM is easily stored in a drawer if you don't have anti-static bags.
For video cards and processor, note the model number carefully. Video cards are used by graphic designers and computer gamers, and both are always looking for a deal on video cards. If you're not a tech savvy person, but happen to have a video card on hand from a system being scrapped, you could be giving someone a nice discount in an industry that charges hundreds of dollars.
If you don't know where to take components that can't be sold, or need containers and delivery to recycling centers, contact an electronic equipment recycling expert to set up a container delivery or pickup appointments.