How to Recycle Motherboards

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How to Recycle Motherboards
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How to Recycle Motherboards

As convenient as it seems, tossing electronics in the trash is not the best way to handle their disposal. In fact, the act is illegal in many states. Electronics, such as computers, DVD players,monitors, televisions, and even phones, do not break down in landfills. Whole devices and individual components, such as computer motherboards, need to be recycled or disposed of in environmentally friendly ways. There are several ways to recycle motherboards, from outright recycling to refurbishing, and even just reselling the board. No matter what route consumers choose, they should take care to ensure the motherboards are handled responsibly.

Responsible Recycling for Circuit Boards

A motherboard is essentially a printed circuit board (PCB). The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has set specific guidelines for handling PCBs.

PCB Condition

EPA Guidelines

Whole, unused board

Unregulated (considered unused commercial chemical product)

Whole, used board

Considered both spent materials and scrap metal. Exempt from hazardous waste regulations for recycling

Shredded, used board

Must be containerized and free of mercury switches/relays and nickel-cadmium or lithium batteries, or they must be treated as hazardous materials

Removing the motherboard from a computer to recycle is not a daunting process. First, make sure the computer is off and the work is occurring in a place that does not allow static buildup. Open the case of the computer with a screwdriver. With desktops, this usually involves removing a side panel. For laptops, remove the back of the machine. Start by disconnecting any wires, then remove any cards plugged into the board, including RAM modules and PCI cards. Remove the CPU as well. This is often covered by a heat sink, which is either unscrewed or unfastened. Next, release the catch mechanism that holds the CPU in place and lift the processor out. A final key to preparing a motherboard for recycling is to remove the tiny battery that controls the computer clock and BIOS. This small battery is the same type used in watches and other small electronics. Many times the battery is removable, but if it is soldered on, leave it attached to the board.

Take the Motherboard to a Recycling Center

One of the best ways to recycle a motherboard is simply to take it to a recycling center that processes electronic waste. Most recycling centers do not handle electronics, so it is important to find one that works with e-waste. Some local governments may have a pick-up service that collects unwanted electronics, from entire computers to individual components as well as televisions, printers, and more. If a drop-off or collection service is not available, then there are online organizations that assist with recycling. Some retail stores also offer electronics recycling, either for free or for a small fee.

Another option is to find a refinery that accepts the motherboard. Refineries typically take motherboards and other components to extract the metal components, including gold and copper. Some refineries require the motherboard owner to break it down in advance, while others accept the board outright. However, buyers should ensure the refinery handles the recycling process in an environmentally responsible manner.

Refurbish the Motherboard

Another option is to refurbish the motherboard . Some manufacturers accept old motherboards to be refurbished and either returned or resold. Local computer dealers may also accept boards and either sent them back or place them in another computer. Some shops are specially authorized by the maker of the computer's operating system to refurbish motherboards. Refurbishing is a great option to extend the life of electronics. Rather than buying an entirely new computer, consumers can upgrade or replace worn out components. However, this approach does limit users in terms of compatibility.

Resell the Motherboard

A third option is simply to resell the motherboard as it is. Online marketplaces, such as eBay, are great places to sell old and unused electronics that can be repurposed by the buyers. Decide whether to list the motherboard on its own or along with components such as RAM modules. If including a hard drive, wipe the drive to eliminate sharing sensitive data.

How to Buy Used and Refurbished Motherboards on eBay

eBay is a great source to find used and refurbished computer parts, including motherboards. Depending on your skill level, you can find an already refurbished board that is ready for installation, or you can buy a used board sold for parts and handle the repairs yourself. Start with a keyword search, such as " motherboard," and narrow your search by modifying the keyword to include brand, computer model, or even a feature. You can also use eBay's refinement filter to specify price or item condition. Check the seller's feedback history, and read the listing carefully before you buy.

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