It is estimated that as many as 45 million computers reach the end of their usefulness each year, prompting a decision on what will be done to dispose of them. Computers contain toxic materials such as lead and mercury that can leech into groundwater, making them unsafe (and illegal in many jurisdictions) to put into a landfill. However, there are several ways in which obsolete computers can be safely recycled.

The easiest way to recycle a computer is by contacting the original manufacturer. Dell and Apple, for example, both have recycling programs. In these programs, the shipping costs are borne by the computer manufacturer, and participation in these programs may entitle the computer owner to a small discount on their next purchase.

If the computer manufacturer is no longer in business, consider whether the old computer may still be useful to someone else. An older computer can be an excellent gift for a child or family member. If this is not an option, consider donating the computer to a local thrift shop. This donation may be tax-deductible. Alternatively, an old computer can be sold to a pawn shop or at a garage sale.

If the computer is so old that it is not desirable for anyone, and the computer manufacturer no longer exists or does not recycle, it will be necessary to contact an electronics recycler. Most local waste management companies are able to direct their customers to organizations that handle the recycling of electronics in an environmentally sound manner.