It doesn't matter if you're getting rid of a single, decade-old computer or upgrading from an entire fleet of computers from two years ago; there are valuable materials inside that could be returned to the recycling system. Especially in industrial sectors with lots of business workstations, there's a lot of aluminum, copper and magnets that can be taken out in large numbers and put towards a better environment. To avoid adding to continuing electronic waste (e-waste) and to make even a fraction of your computer investment back at recycling centers, take the time to understand the recyclable metals and other materials inside computers.
The Case Is The First Stop
Computer cases are composed of a frame and a sliding panel. The frame is the general shape of the computer and is where most of the metal is located, but your computer could be using a single-side panel or a U-shaped shell that covers the frame.
Both the frame and the paneling of the case are usually made of aluminum or steel. There may be some plastic covering up some parts of the case, but these can usually be removed by pressing plastic tabs or removing screws. If you need to take the plastic off by force, be mindful of popping, flying projectiles from breakage and sharp edges after ripping plastic pieces away.
The metal framework is made out of different shelves and cages for keeping components in place, and can be cut or otherwise broken down with metal cutters or hammers. Be careful when handling computer case edges, as the shapes are often cut with a fast industrial process that leaves behind razor-sharp edges.
Taking Apart The Hard Drive
One interesting component for recycling is the hard drive. It's heavy and has a decent scrapping potential, but some of the weight can be deceptive.
The casing of the hard drive is usually made out of aluminum or steel. Thick walls are pressed and screwed in place to form an airtight seal to keep dust at a minimum. You can remove the cases with a basic jeweler's screwdriver set or similar small screwdriver set.
A large part of the weight comes from the hard drive's platters, which are made from glass, ceramic or other materials. The recycling potential for platters depends on what the platters are coated with, and as platinum is no longer the sole or primary coating material, you'll need to consult with the hard drive manufacturer for their specific coating material.
The real value comes from the rare earth magnets inside the hard drive. The clusters of magnets are used to hold certain components inside the hard drive together, and are sought after by hobbyists as well as the recycling industry.
Contact a scrap metal recycling professional to find current rates and other materials that recycling centers may want from you.