How to Recycle a Computer

19th February 2024

By Graham Matthews

It’s important to recycle computers at the end of their life. Computers, laptops, PCs, and tablets are all waste electric and electronic equipment (WEEE). Responsible computer disposal avoids them ending up in landfill whether you’re upgrading and replacing old models in the office or disposing of a broken laptop you use at home.

Getting rid of old computers isn’t like throwing away a crisp packet – you can’t just chuck them in your bin at home. You need to do a bit of preparation and then decide the best way to get rid of your old machine from your home or business. Learn how to recycle a computer in this guide.

Divert can help if your business needs to get rid of any computers or you’ve got a few ready to recycle at home. Call 0333 444 0118 or contact us online for a free quote and arrange removal of your old computers today.

computer and laptop on a desk.

How to prepare a computer, PC, or laptop for recycling

There are a few things you should do before recycling an old PC or laptop to stay safe and ensure as much as possible is recycled. Simply handing an old laptop over to someone else could lead to a security breach and exposing sensitive information. Follow all these steps before recycling your computer:

  • Back up everything you need – make sure you’ve removed and stored everything you need from your old computer on an external hard drive, USB stick, your new computer, or uploaded to the cloud. Make a note of any licence keys for software and double check you can access everything you need once removed before moving onto the next step.
  • Do a factory reset – to prevent access to any files or programs installed on your old computer or laptop it’s vital you do a full factory reset. Instructions for how to do this should be available on your device or online.
  • Use data shredding software – even after a factory reset some sensitive data may be accessible if your old computer falls into the wrong hands. You can shred data on Windows 10 and 11 systems by using the factory reset settings. To stay extra safe you may consider using additional data shredding software.
  • Remove the hard drive – an alternative to using data shredding software is to physically remove the hard drive and keep it safe. Use an external caddy and pop in your old hard drive so it can be used like a USB on your new computer.
  • Take out the battery (from a laptop) – depending on how you’re recycling an old laptop you might ant to remove the battery and recycle it separately. It should be taken out before the laptop recycling process anyway, but you can remove it and recycle in most battery bins too.
  • Peel off any stickers – if you’ve decorated your laptop or computer tower with some funky stickers it’s time to peel them off, as the paper and glue are potential contaminants. Anyone receiving your old laptop/computer probably won’t have the same taste as you and will appreciate their removal.

Where can you recycle computers?

Recycling an old PC or laptop from home is possible at a few places in the UK. These are all free and should ensure the computer and/or its parts are recovered. There are other options for getting rid of computers but for a choice that recycled your machine these are three good choices:

  • Electrical shops – many electrical retailers offer a takeback service that ensures your old PC or laptop is recycled. You don’t need to have originally bought the machine from the exact electrical shop either. If you’re buying something new they might even provide store credit or knock it off your purchase (though this varies between retailers).
  • Household Waste Recycling Centre (HWRC) – most HWRCs will have an area or containers where you can recycle old computers and other electricals from your home. These must be domestic computers. There’s no charge although there may be limits to how many you can get rid of at once or in a year.
  • Computer recycling scheme – some other places run free computer recycling schemes, such as WEEECharity. They collect domestic computers and equipment for free, will wipe its data, and then refurbish and gives them to those in needs or recycles them.

Options for getting rid of old computers that work

Recycling isn’t the only option if you’re getting rid of an old computer and it’s still in good working order. It’s great to recycle a computer but the process requires energy and transportation, so finding ways to reuse or prolong its life is always best for the environment. These are a few free ideas to dispose of old computers:

  • Donate – got a friend or family member after a new laptop? Consider giving them your old one. Alternatively, take it to a charity shop or donate to a local community cause that could benefit from a computer.
  • Sell online – list your old computer, laptop, or IT equipment on sites like Gumtree and Facebook Marketplace to make a bit of money and get rid of your old machine at the same time.
  • Upcycle – depending on what you use your computer for, could you just upgrade the graphics card or replace the speakers to improve performance? It saves on waste and should be cheaper than buying a new machine.

How are computers recycled?

After disposing of an old computer and sending it for recycling you might wonder what happens to it. If they can’t be reused then they’ll likely go to a specialist recycling centre where they’re processed, parts are recovered, and materials are separated and recycled. The main stages of computer recycling include:

  • First the old computers are sorted by their type – then they’re tested and any that work may be sent for refurbishing.
  • Key parts are removed from the computer including any speakers, the circuit board, and graphics cards.
  • It’s then disassembled, and parts separated by materials – such as any plastics, ferrous and non-ferrous metals, and hazardous materials.
  • The hard drive is shredded and sometimes recycled into aluminium ingots that are used by the auto industry.
  • Everything remaining is separated by material and usually shredded and used to form new materials. Plastic, glass, and metals are sent to specialist recycling plants that deal with those materials and turn them into new ones.

How should businesses 
dispose of old computers?

Computers are essential to every business but eventually they need upgrading or replacing. However, you can’t just take them to an HWRC or back to the retailer, as they class as commercial waste. Getting rid of old computers from an office or any other kind of business requires commercial waste collection.

Book removal of your computers, laptops, and any other electrical equipment with licensed waste carriers. This ensures they’re collected and recycled safely, legally, and responsibly. If any computers still work then they may be refurbished and donated, but those that are past it will be recycled properly at professional facilities.

Arrange commercial waste collection of any type and number of old computers with Divert. Our licensed waste carriers can collect your equipment at a suitable time and transport it to a nearby facility for recycling. Get a free quote today – call 0333 444 0118 or contact us online.

We offer WEEE collection services including old computers and IT equipment from businesses and homes across Yorkshire:

dont dump. divert

Get a quick quote

Get a quick FREE quote for your computer waste

  • Quick quote within 1 hr
  • All types of old computers
  • Claim your free bins
  • Nationwide coverage