How Much Scrap Is in Your Computer?

Are you upgrading to a new computer, or getting rid of some old, broken systems that are beyond repair? Recycling is important, but it's hard to know the worth of enclosed systems like computers unless you know how they're put together. Here's a few recycling points inside computers to help you figure out what can be recovered.

Computer-Case Recycling

Although computer cases are often covered in plastic to make appealing shapes, the case itself and underlying framework is usually made out of metal.

Aluminum is the most common case material due to its cost-effective strength and light weight. Since many desktop and laptop users need to move their computers around the home at some point, making sure that the part with the most mass is lightweight is vital.

Some computers have steel frames for added protection. These computers are usually for industrial use or use in hazardous situations such as mining operations or rugged computers used in field and military operations. 

The computer case is best stored by stacking, but if you want to break it down into smaller pieces for compact storage or easier melting, it can be broken down into panels, struts, and cages by removing a series of bolts or metal connecting tabs.

Heat Sinks Are Solid and Heavy

To cool down computer components such as the processor—the brains of the computer that can get hot enough to start a fire—computers have heat sinks. Heat sinks are solid blocks that draw the heat away from the connected device, and a connected fan moves air through a series of fins sticking from the block.

Heat sinks are usually made of aluminum, but higher-performance computers use copper heat sinks or a combination of aluminum or copper due to copper's higher heat-transfer rate.

Power Supplies Are Best Left Intact

The power supply unit of a computer can be removed from the case with usually four screws. It's a box that has an input for power on one side and multiple output types for the computer on the other side.

Power supplies contain latent, lethal electricity for periods of time that can't be easily planned, and the answer is different for every power supply brand. Unless you are a certified electrician or can get help from one, don't disassemble the power supply unit. When removed from the computer cases, these small boxes can be stacked for storage fairly easily.

Inside the power supply unit is a coil of copper with aluminum and sometimes copper blocks. The weight and recycling value varies a lot inside computers, so if you have a lot of materials to separate or sell, contact a professional that picks up scrap metal. Businesses moving bulk computer scrap materials can benefit from dedicated scrap pick-up to take the heavy task of transporting massive materials to distant facilities, so make sure to plan their help with your next removal or upgrade.