A lot of the materials in computers and monitors are very harmful to the environment if not disposed of properly. Over time computer equipment becomes antiquated and or broken and it is the job of the I.T. department to follow Penn policy and recycle this e-waste.
As Penn Museum has transitioned from the large CRT monitors to flat screen monitors we have seen dozens of them fly out the cargo bay and into the recycling truck. CRT monitors contain contaminants such as lead, cadmium, beryllium, mercury, and brominated flame retardants. These are all elements we do not want leeching into our water supply from landfills. The CRT monitors we recycled could possibly be reused in car batteries, ammunition or lead wheel weights.
Computers contain an array of recyclable materials from steel, plastic, copper and are considered “high value” recyclables. If the computers still work they can be resold altogether or stripped for parts like hard drives and RAM, a process known to some as E-Cycling. Penn policy does not allow the resale of University equipment for legal reasons but during our next recycling period we will explore donating working equipment to a local school that can put it to good use.
Overall it’s good knowing that a government certified company is disposing of properly or re-purposing the electronics we use to do and store our research. As electronics become more and more integral in our everyday lives it is important to remember to recycle and properly dispose of these items when they reach their planned obsolescence.