How we Recycle

We do all of our recycling with high standards.  The highest and best form of recycling is reuse.  Giving a product a new life.

1.  Testing

That is why every item we receive which could have a useful life is tested to see if it works.  If it does we then will refurbish the hardware to make it usable by someone else, to give it a new life.  In this way it totally avoids going into the waste stream, it also avoids the costs and environmental damage cause when making new hardware.  In many cases a complete system will not function but many of the internal parts do, when this happens we try to find out the problem and fix it. disassemble the system and go back to testing to test every part, keeping those that work to be reused and putting the rest into our recycling system.

2.  Refurbishing

We have a highly qualified team that recycles our system, we get them ready for resell, often making them better than when they were new by upgrading them.  Many systems and items are sold in our retail store, Emerald Computers.  Many items are sold to other computer companies who use them to serve their customers, other items that are hard to sell to the general public are sold on ebay.  This reselling is how we are able to actually pay people to recycle their computer systems.  We give back a large amount to charity, we also give 1 out of every 10 refurbished computers to charity.  When we stumble across data left by a client on any device that data is quickly and securely destroyed.

3.  Dis-assembly

When we can’t fix something, or when the item is too old to be useful we then dis-assemble it.  For newer items we then test each part of the system, keeping those that work to be reused and putting the rest into our recycling system.  For older systems they are completely disassembled and sorted into each material type.

4.  Recycling

Once things are taken apart we then recycle each material with an ISO certified company in each area.  We try to recycle everything locally in the state of Arizona, and we have successfully found someone for every material stream except PCB which is sent to large companies in California who recycle it there.


Our goal is to securely and safely recycle tons of computer products.  To do this efficiently we need to have a proper flow for this. Here is the process from receipt to compete sort.

Scrap materials come in from various sources, such as clients dropping them off, or businesses having us pick up materials.  Once we receive these they will be quickly sorted into Computers (Laptops and servers also) and Non Computers.  We take a quick count of what was given and give the client a recycling receipt.  We will blow air at all of these items in an effort to reduce the amount of dust entering our facility.  Our facility uses a positive force air circulation system that keep our air very clean.

A small percent of the clients need to have their data securely destroyed, if this is the case the hard drives will immediately be removed from the computers, have a red sticker applied, and sent to a secure area, it will be a box which will have the name of the client who recycled the drives put on it. In this secure area we have a computer that can wipe up to 24 SATA drives at the same time.  For SSD drives we use a special tool that also gets into the cached sections of the drive. For all non-sata drives we will physically destroy the drives, this includes taking it apart and shattering the platters, this is usually done with a drill press or shredding machine.  For all drive types, just before we destroy the drives we mark down their serial number, we then enter these into a spreadsheet and enter the destruction method. If the customer requests it we will email them a copy of this spreadsheet once the job is done.  In rare cases some clients require RIOS certification of destruction, for this we have a certified third party who is RIOS certified handle the drives.

Once the drives are removed, or in computers that data destruction was not request, we put all of the computers, laptops or servers into an untested pallet.  Usually we try to have less than one of these, but sometimes we may have a few of these pallets.  We believe that the highest use of a recycled item is to be repurposed in its current form.  To this goal we now sort the computers and test them.  If a computer is very old, usually over 10 years old it will immediately go to the scrap pallet.  The rest of the computers are tested, if they pass our tests they will go to the reuse area, this is where they can be sorted by type, and be prepared to be refurbished.  The first step in this refurbishing process is to wipe all of the data on the drives with a basic wipe.  If a computer fails our test and is less than 5 years old it will go to the scrap pallet.  If it is newer than that we will try to find out the problem and fix it, in many cases just one part is bad and we can reuse the computer.  If we can’t fix it then it goes to the scrap pallet.  This leaves us with only two types of computers, those we plan to refurbish and reuse and those that are scrap.  At this point we will refurbish the ones we can, make them as good as we can and sell them in our used computer store.  The scrap ones will now be ripped apart.

We will now dismantle the computer systems and place all of the parts on a large sort table.  All of the parts, along with the non-computer items are now sorted into different bins.  Bins range from small (Which is about 1 Cubic foot) to medium (2.5 Cubic feet) to large (8 Cubic feet) to Gaylord, which is the size of a pallet and 4 feet tall.

Here are the 102 categories that we currently use for our sort.  Anything that says scrap will be sold by the LB for that material type.  Some items go directly to our used computer store, like RAM, and are not listed here.

  • AC/DC Power Bricks and chargers
    • HP Yellow Tip
    • HP 7.4 MM
    • HP Blue Tip
    • HP Other
    • Dell 7.4 MM
    • Dell Other
    • Samsung
    • Gateway/Acer
    • IBM/Lenovo Round
    • Lenovo Square
    • Toshiba
    • ASUS
    • Netbook
    • Other Chargers
    • Power for Monitors
    • Power for printers
    • Small 12V Power Bricks
    • Power bricks larger than 12V
    • Power bricks smaller than 12V
  • Batteries
    • UPS Batteries (scrap)
    • Broken Laptop Batteries (scrap)
    • HP/Compaq Batteries
    • Toshiba Batteries
    • Dell Batteries
    • Lenovo/Toshiba Batteries
    • Acer/Gateway Batteries
    • Samsung Batteries
    • Sony Batteries
    • Other Batteries
  • Mickey Mouse Power Cords
  • Figure 8 Power Cords
  • Standard PC Power Cords
  • Non Standard Power Cords
  • Power Strips
  • Extension Cords
  • SVGA Cables
  • DVI Cables
  • Other Video Cables
  • USB Cables
  • Non-Working Chargers and Bricks
  • Sata Cables and power adaptors
  • Audio Cables
  • Cat 5 Cables
  • Flat Cables (IDE and Floppy)
  • Other Cables
  • Scrap Wire and cables including COAX and Cat3 Cables
  • Phones
  • Routers
  • Cable and DSL Modems
  • Network Switches and Hubs
  • Thin Clients
  • ESD Bags
  • Used Fans
  • USB Cards
  • Wifi Cards
  • Internal Modems
  • Copper Heatsinks
  • Aluminum Heatsinks
  • Mixed Metal Heatsinks
  • Circuit board scrap (All motherboards and non-working cards of any type)
  • AGP Video Cards
  • PCI Video Cards
  • PCI Express Video Cards (Nicer ones go directly to used store)
  • Video Capture Cards
  • Ethernet Cards
  • SATA / IDE Cards
  • Unsorted RAM (To be sorted, good ram goes to used store)
  • Scrap RAM (Bad ram or overly obsolete RAM.)
  • PS2 Mice
  • USB Mice
  • PS2 or White Keyboards (All black USB keyboards go to used store)
  • Used Flat Panel Monitor Scrap  (Only if failed the test, if passed then put into used store)
  • CRT Monitors and TV  (This is the only item we charge for)
  • Speakers
  • Power Supplies
  • Working and modern Optical Drives
  • Old, or broken optical drives
  • Floppy Drives
  • SSD Drives
  • Untested Hard Drives (These are all wiped and tested if they pass they go to used store)
  • Scrap Hard Drives (These are the ones that fail or are too old, these are shredded)
  • Miscellaneous Aluminum Scrap
  • Software and books
  • Power Supply Units that test good
  • Power Supply Units that test bad
  • Laser Printers
  • Inkjet or broken printers
  • Steel Scrap
  • Miscellaneous Plastic Parts
  • Cardboard
  • HP Laptop Shells
  • Dell Laptop Shells
  • Acer/Gateway Laptop Shells
  • Lenovo/IBM Laptop Shells
  • Toshiba Laptop Shells
  • Other Laptop Shells
  • Broken Laptop screens
  • Laptop Keyboards PERFECT
  • Laptop Keyboards with missing keys
  • Laptop Plates and covers
  • Webcams and microphones
  • House hold appliances and sound systems (Shelf)
  • DVD, VHS and DVR Systems (Shelf)
  • Tools, screws, nuts, bolts, brackets, ect
  • Other scrap that does not go elsewhere (Large Bin)

Once everything is sorted it will be sold off or used in building computers, sold online, or sold in our used store.  It is a lot of work to process this material which is why we usually don’t give scrap a value.

For the computers that we refurbish we donate 1 in 10 to charity.  Many of these systems will be sold off for very little to help those who really need them.  Computers with a license for an OS will be given that OS or left blank, computers without a license will be left blank, or have no hard drive installed.  We also turn a good amount of our refurbished computers into simple Linux computers to do various network tasks.

Thanks for reading this; I hope you have a lot more insight into our process of recycling computer hardware.


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