WHEN GOOD COMPUTERS GO BAD

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By Erica Stirpe

Somewhere in the trenches of your basement, you probably have a piece-of-junk computer.

It was super cool and super fast when you bought it, but now it’s just too slow, too virus-infested, too incompatible with your new software and only marginally more useful than a paperweight.

When it came time to finally rid yourself of the sucker, you probably plunked it at the end of your driveway and waved goodbye as the garbage truck pulled away.

But as it turns out, ditching your computer at the curb isn’t just bad for the environment, it’s bad for your health too.

A recent Greenpeace report showed that computers contain dozens of heavy metals and other hazardous chemicals.

Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) monitors alone contain mercury, lead, cadmium, bromine and other extremely toxic materials that can be released into the air and water if not properly disposed of.

Some computer manufacturers, like Dell, have pledged to phase out the use of two key groups of chemicals, brominated flame retardants and plastic polyvinyl chlorine (PVC), by 2009.

Greenpeace claims that a majority of the “e-waste” produced in North America (4.6 million tonnes each year in the United States alone) actually gets sent to other countries, like China and India, that don’t have the same infrastructure to properly dispose of technological waste.

Luckily, if you don’t want your computer poisoning the earth, you do have some options. “When my clients ask me to throw away their computers, I never do,” said Dell computer technician Eshmail Pasha.

“Instead, I take the parts I can use and donate them to schools.” However, Pasha said old computers aren’t really worth the trouble as-is.

“Right now, [it] isn’t feasible. The old parts and old computers take up two to three times more energy than a new computer,” he said.

But non-profit organizations like the Toronto-based Little Geeks will accept your chunky old PC (or Mac) and any other peripherals, refurbish them and then give them to needy kids.

They’ll even hook the computer up to the Internet. The organization (Littlegeeks.org) only offers computers in the GTA at the moment, and charges a $10 recycling fee for CRT monitors.

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