It's illegal in most areas to simply throw computers and other electronics in the trash, resulting in either fines or the trash not being picked up. That doesn't mean you're forced into taking computers into recycling centers at a major loss! If you plan your recycling and keep an eye on individual material recycling/purchasing rates, you could make a decent amount of cash back. Here's what's worth scrapping inside computers and how to get sanitation professionals to help.
Aluminum Scrapping And Storage
The computer case is the first place you'll hit for recycling. Even though many computers have plastic covers, molds, and other aesthetics-enhancing designs on the outside, the covers and frame are usually still made of plastic. The exception is framework for some ruggedized computers.
Modern computers are meant to be easily modified by hobbyists and experienced users, so the side panel can be removed by twisting a thumb fastener or standard screw. Computer cases can be stored relatively easily by stacking, but if you need to break them down, the folded metal beams and support struts are held together with screws, rivets, or metal tabs.
Melting down aluminum is best done after the case has been broken down to the strut level. If you have a computer with hidden screws, the aluminum is still thin enough to be hit by a hammer in the middle of beams and struts to break and tear in half.
Rare Earth Magnets
Aluminum and copper can be found in larger components inside the computer, but there are some hidden gems inside older computers. Specifically, computers using hard drive technology have magnets that can be recovered. First, some info about hard drives and what isn't a hard drive.
The term hard drive or hard disk drive is used to describe a specific form of storage using disk platters. These platters store and deliver information similar to the way a record player retrieves music, but with magnetic impressions instead of physically scratching the platters.
Platters move at high speeds, and any jolt or impact to the computer can scratch the platter significantly. This is why computers that have been dropped multiple times seem to fail, as the hard drive has to work harder to read through the scratches. It's also a part of normal wear and tear, and why unplanned restarts aren't a good idea, as the platters can be scratched if the computer is turned off during data writing.
Hard drives use rare earth magnets to hold the reading arms in place instead of screws, since the vibration from high-speed platters can shake screws loose. These magnets are valuable to hobbyists more than the recycling centers unless the recycling center has a resale program for the magnets. There is currently debate over how efficient recycling outside of reusing can be for magnets.
A new type of storage technology is slowly augmenting—but not yet replacing—hard drives. Solid state drives (SSDs) are not hard drives, but are often incorrectly called hard drives due to serving the same purpose. They are made of small wafer boards with cells that are charged and discharged to represent data and have no magnets.
Be aware of which kind of storage drive you have and contact a trash service to discuss pickup and bins for separation.