Recycling Computers from Multiple Generations

14 September 2016
 Categories: Business, Blog

It can be hard to understand when to upgrade a computer until everything is moving too slowly, and it's just as hard to figure out what's worth recycling. There have been a few subtle changes in computer materials, with some changes being for cost, while others have been for function. To understand what you can recycle and what may have changed over the years, here are a few computer-recycling pointers to help you get to the important areas faster.

Aluminum and Steel Content in Cases

The amount of metal used in computer cases has changed, but not necessary in a drastic way. Although many computers sport trendy, sleek-looking designs cut from plastic or acrylic, there is still an underlying metal framework beneath.

The aluminum used in cases is often made from recycled aluminum and is folded for structural strength. Some computers used for industrial or rugged, outdoor, or field use may employ a steel frame to stand up against battering and other hostile environment factors.

For storage and later recycling, it's easier to strip computers down to their square or rectangular framework, but the frames can be broken down without too much effort if you need to store the metal in smaller piles or need smaller pieces for melting. Most framework beams are held together by screws or sliding metal tabs.

Hard Drives and the Old Magnet

Hard-disk drives are kept inside metal cases that are vacuum sealed to keep contaminants from scratching the sensitive platters. These platters are often aluminum or glass-like with a thin substrate of proprietary metals and minerals on the surface, and they account for much of the hard drive's weight.

The platters are read by a series of voice coil arms that are held in place by rare earth magnets. These magnets are used for their strength and because screws used in the same place may rattle out of place due to the rapid vibrations of the spinning disks.

These magnets have a volatile recycling rate compared to other metals due to controversy surrounding their mining and the excessive stock available. The need to recycle is there, but it's difficult to destroy and reassemble the needed materials into something useful. Hard-drive scrappers can, however, find hobbyists who want to collect the magnets for their personal use. This is a niche market, but hard-drive magnets are just the right size for much of this niche.

Newer computers make the magnet issue more confusing. Solid State Drives (SSDs) are a new item on the market when it comes to desktop and laptop storage drives, and they lack the magnets used in hard drives. You can still recycle the SSDs, but they're made of a thin layer of copper sealed by glass epoxy with a few copper metal-oxide semiconductors and other small materials that can be shred into fine bits.

If you need to separate materials or would like to recycle your computers as whole units, contact a team of scrap metal buyers such as Big Daddy Scrap to figure out what's in demand.