Feature

E-waste busters!

G Magazine

Is your computer on the way out? You might be surprised at the options for upgrading, refurbishing and recycling.

E-waste

Many computers become obsolete so quickly because they're too slow to run the latest software - but old computers can be given a new lease on life.

Credit: iStockphoto

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There's no denying: we're in the digital age. Technology now changes so much and so rapidly that electronics such as computers are considered past their best after barely a year - long before their hardware has a chance to wear out. Welcome to the world of massive electronic waste.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australians buy more than 2.4 million computers per year. But we only recycle around 500,000, with 1.6 million going to landfill and the rest kept in storage.

Aside from the space it takes up, electronic equipment often contains toxins that, if disposed of in landfill, can leach into ground water and contaminate soil. But there should be no need to throw computers away when over 98 per cent of the components can be reused or recycled. So what should you do with an old computer?

Upgrade the software

Before you buy a new computer, consider the reasons you're thinking about the upgrade. Are you running out of storage space? It's possible to free up some space by storing data online at sites like Amazon Web Services. Amazon (yes, the US-based book seller) has web servers available to securely store data for a small monthly fee. But if you've got a lot of data, an external hard drive is the way to go - they're small and they don't use energy unless you need to access the old files.

Alternatively, consider buying more memory for your current machine. Many computers have expansion slots that allow you to upgrade the memory, extending the life of your computer. Check out www.upgradeable.com.au for the appropriate RAM (memory) for your computer.

Refurbish

Many computers become obsolete so quickly that they're too slow to run the latest software - that's the main reason they're discarded. But computers just a few years old can be refurbished for use by people who just need web access and word processing.

Various charitable organisations accept computers as part of the Microsoft Community Authorised Refurbisher program (click here for a list of the organisations involved). After being completely wiped of all information, the computers are sold with the Windows operating system installed for free to a disadvantaged person or a not-for-profit organisation.

Australian businesses turn over their computers, on average, every 18 months, which adds up to a lot of machines that can be given a new lease of life.

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