Recycling Computers & Electronics

Related Page: Recycling CDs & Tapes

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Where you can take old computers

Alameda County Computer Resource Center (Berkeley)
We will recycle anything that you can plug into a power outlet. This means we will recycle your computer, VCR, television, copy machine, and even your microwave and toaster, but not your large appliances such as a washing machine or refrigerator. When you give us your computer, you will receive a tax write-off, and we will attempt to fix your equipment and then give it away to someone who is unable to afford to buy a computer. If we are unable to reuse your equipment, it will be recycled in an environmentally friendly manner. See Alameda County Computer Resource Center

Technical Resources for Educational eXcellence (El Cerrito)
Technical Resources for Educational eXcellence (T-REX), an El Cerrito-based non-profit organization, is seeking the tax-deductible donation of your computers. Donated computers will be refurbished and given to low-income junior- or senior-high students in the West Contra Costa County. Instruction for use, care and maintenance is mandatory and provided for the student. Computers must be at least 400 mHz and include CPU, monitor, keyboard and mouse and be in working condition. T-REX will pick up 4 or more computers from a single location. Other donations may be delivered to the El Cerrito United Methodist Church at 6830 Stockton Ave, El Cerrito on Mondays from 3:00PM to 6:00 PM. To arrange drop offs Tuesday through Friday call the Church at 510-525-3500. For more information Contact Oscar Romo, trex4u at

2010 - 2014 Recommendations

Recycling an old computer

March 2014

My old Macbook (purchased in 2007) has finally bit the dust and I've replaced it with a new laptop. I'd like to recycle my old Macbook, but because it won't power on, I'm not able to wipe the hard drive and return it to factory settings before sending it off. According to Apple, they use a third-party recycler called Power On, and I was told that the hard drive is wiped and laptop reset to factory settings as part of the recycling process. I'm not sure if I feel comfortable sending my laptop ahead despite their assurances, since I have a lot of personal information (and photos) on my hard drive. I could physically remove my hard drive before sending, but then that would be another piece of useless electronic junk sitting around the house. I've recycled computers locally through the place near Gilman and Second Street in Berkeley, but I'm pretty sure that the computer has to be able to be powered on in order for the hard drive to be wiped. Suggestions? electronic recycler

I've recycled quite a bit of electronic stuff through Green Citizen on Shattuck in Berkeley - they are super nice to work with and don't charge a fee for most recycling. They will obliterate your hard drive for you (this service costs $20) - they actually physically destroy it, so the machine doesn't need to power up for the process to work. More info about the Berkeley location and what they accept at, and about data destruction at Recycler

If you are able to take the hard drive out (and on most older MacBooks it's fairly easy if you have a Phillips 0 screwdriver to remove the screws on the bottom), you can give it a few good hammer strikes to break the disk platters beyond recovery. Many people also ''drill'' old drives with a power drill. One hole through the platters and it will be a goner...

If you don't want to smash or drill the drive, you can also put it in an external drive enclosure, attach it to your new Mac and wipe it from there. I could do this for you, but it sounds like you would be fine with a hammer...

Once you've rendered the drive dead, the Computer & Technology Resource Center (formerly the Alameda County Computer Resource Center) will pick up the remains and recycle or reuse the parts. Pickup is free within Berkeley and they take all types of old electronics, not just computers. You can also just drop things off at their Page St. location: Becky

If the photos and data in your old computer are important you can take it to Medhi Ammari of Ammari Electronics on San Pablo and have him get it to power up and then put all the contents of the hard drive on a memory stick or just move it for you to your new computer. He is very sharp, reasonable, and trustworthy. Don't trust Apple to do anything! They probably already have all your data. Medhi might be able to wipe the drive but true erasure requires destruction of the drive or exposure to high magnetic field. You can take it to a junk yard with an electromagnet on a crane and have them pick it up. Then give it to a ''true'' recycler. Note that most recycle outfits just want the precious metals and don't really keep the computer operational for future use. You think some kid in a 3rd world country will learn to be on Facebook but in reality you promote the abuse of elderly slaves smashing chips off the circuit boards with rocks in town square to get the copper leaving a mountain of toxic debris in a pile for the kid you thought you were helping to play in. Be sure to find a recycler that truly will keep it operational and in hands that need it if there even is a good place in the world for Apple products. Good to know somebody thinks before ''recycling''! pro-re-use

I had the same issue with one of my old Mac laptops. It died and wouldn't turn on. I took it to this place on Oxford in Berkeley, right across the street from Cal and down the block from Starbucks. I don't remember the name. But they were able to extract the hard drive and wipe the disk, and provide me a copy of the info beforehand. It was around $50-100 to do it. Very nice technicians. Just go by there, no appt necessary. anon

Recycle printer cartridges

May 2012

I have a growing pile of empty ink cartridges waiting to find a near-by place that collects them for recycling (as a fundraiser - I know Office Depot, etc. will take them). Does your schools o non-profit do this? Albany/North Berkeley would be easiest for us. -wanna recycle

El Cerrito High School on Ashbury Street recycles ink cartridges. They use the funds for direct school expenses. Address is 540 Ashbury Street, El Cerrito phone 510 231 1437. Former EC High parent

the middle school at Montesorri Family School has started a recycling program to support their school trip. here is the information: Middle School students have started a battery and electronic recycling program for MFS. Bring in your used batteries and electronics which will help benefit MFS and the planet! Collection started on Earth Day, and is ongoing. There will be a receptacle in the El Cerrito Campus Lobby. Berkeley Campus Families can give there items to the Berkeley Office. Proceeds go to fund the MS Adventure Trip, with a portion going back to support the overall school budget. anonymous

2005 - 2009 Recommendations

Where to dispose of computer accessories?

Feb 2009

I have some non-functioning computer accessories (mouse, speakers). I want to know if there is a place to recycle or responsibly dispose of them. Anyone know? I have old floppy disks I need to get rid of and am wondering if there is somewhere I can recycle or dispose of them responsibly - or - if I should just throw them in the garbage. Anyone know? reyna

I often take computer recycling to the Alameda County Computer Resource Center in Berkeley (nr Gilman), because they dispose of it ultra-responsibly. But they do charge a fee for many of the items they recycle. You can check the fees and other details at StopWaste ( has a few more resources for both computer peripherals and diskettes. And keep your eye out for electronics recycling drives -- although I'm never sure the stuff collected isn't just being shipped overseas, at least it's ostensibly getting recycled. Green Mama

I simply googled your question. Google's a great resource, try it sometime.

Alameda County Computer Resource Center reuses computers and will take accessories--

more resources:

re your floppy disk issue:

found a ton of resources here: Lola

Alameda County Computer Resource Center takes (and repairs/recycles responsibly) all this stuff, and more. Just about all electronics except big appliances (washers, refrigerators, etc.) They are near the Gilman exit of 80. If you live in Berkeley, they'll even pick stuff up for free. You could also keep your eyes open for the periodic ''electronics recycling'' collections that many communities hold. R.K.

You can take just about any computer accessories to Alameda County Computer Resource Center per the BPN page here: BPN mom

ReliaTech for Great Computer Recycling & Service!!

Your old computer waste can be teaching someone to become a computer tech!!

ReliaTech in Oakland, San Pablo and San Francisco's Mission, is a great place to recycle your computer for a worthy cause. At ReliaTech's parent (STRIDE Center), your used computer may help to train local residents to become certified computer technicians. Or it may be refurbished as a Gold Star Certified computer, and offered for sale at $100 and up.

You can learn more at their website, , or by calling 510 236-7000. Merry

I don't know where you live, but I am pretty sure that the El Cerrito Recycling Center on Schmidt takes floppy's. They take a lot of plastics and items that curbside won't accept. Good luck..... anon

Is it risky to donate an old computer?

March 2005

I have a 7 year old Mac I don't need anymore, and was planning to give it to a nonprofit charity of some sort until my friend warned me about the possibility of dishonest people getting personal info from it. Is it true that even if I trash everything and empty the recycle bin, the info is still there to be retrieved by people who know how? I'm not even sure what's there, but I did use it for bill-paying for a few years, so there might be account numbers, perhaps even my social. Is this a silly concern? Now I'm leaning towards taking it to the dump, but it seems so wasteful. On the other hand, maybe it's so old it would be useless to a nonprofit anyway. How do you guys dispose of old ones, and how old is too old to be of any use to anybody? paranoid

A computer professional could wipe your computer clean (by reformatting the hard drive), and then I am sure you could find a school or non-profit who would be glad to take it. It's also my understanding that removing all your personal information doesn't make that info inaccessible but only more difficult to access. another Mac user

You need to do a ''clean install'' (I think that's what it's called!) and your info will be gone (well, maybe someone in the FBI could reconstruct something, but maybe not even them). That's what I've done when I've sold my old computers. My computer consultant helped me. It's not a big deal if you know what you're doing. It's truly a good deed to pass things along to where thay can be used rather than tossing them! anon

It is true that until the data on your hard drive is actually overwritten, it's possible to 'undelete' files even after emptying the trashcan. So there are a couple of solutions. There are a few cheap (and probably even freeware) programs that can do a full detele (actually write zeros to all the bits). You could also call up whatever place you're planning to donate to, tell them your concerns, and see if they'll either take the computer without the hard drive, or have someone that you can bring the computer to and watch them run one of these erase all programs. It also depends on if the place you donate to is going to really use that computer, or if they're just going to turn around and sell it for whatever it's worth in which case you have no idea what's going to happen to it and who might try to pry into the trapped data. Mike

The Alameda County Computer Resource Center has some good info on the options for wiping computer data on its website at They're a good place to donate computer stuff, btw, although they do charge a small fee for pretty much everything except laptops (PCs are $5 to donate, for example). For an extra $10 they'll degauss your harddrive, which as I understand it destroys everything on it completely. It's no fun to pay for donations, but they either fix your stuff and give it to non-profits/low-income people, or recycle the parts, so to me it's worth it to pay a little and know my stuff's not polluting a landfill. JP

It is true that merely deleting files and emptying the trash can is insufficient (at least for a PC, I'm not positive about Macs), but you can reliably and permanently erase your files using a ''DoD wipe'' program. DoD stands for the US Dept. of Defense, which set the standard for programs that do not merely ''delete'' files (which often can be ''undeleted'') but actually writes over that area of the hard drive with new information (say, all zeroes) so it is impossible to undelete.

A very cursory search revealed this free DoD wipe program for the Mac called MacWasher X: and I am sure there are others. Good for you for recycling. David

It actually seems to be getting harder to find public institutions that want older donated computers, though I noticed that there is a past thread here in the BPN archives that provides a lot of possibilities here.

The last time we had a used computer to recycle I took it to Alameda County Computer Resource Center, They are located at 1501 Eastshore Highway in Berkeley. They charge a small fee to take used computer equipment for reuse or recycling.

It seems there is a small danger of having one's supposedly ''erased'' hard drive tapped for residual information, but my understanding is that this is pretty unusual. If you are concerned about this, however, ACCRC will, for an additional fee, run your computer hard drive through a ''degausser,'' essentially large electromagnets which wipe out anything that involves magnetic memory. Doug

If you decide to recycle your computer, check out the Alameda County Computer Resource Center ( They recycle all kinds of electronic equipment so that it won't end up in a landfill. And they can destroy your hard drive for you if you'd prefer. The fees are reasonable. Ruth

This is a recurring question, and the archives may contain the specifics of programs you can use. You can reformat the hard drive, which makes it more difficult to recover information. You can find programs that either scrub te hard drive or write over it with so much data that no one would ever be able to find your data. Personally, I think that if you can find a non- profit to donate it to, just delete all your files, empty the recycle bin, and don't worry about it. There are so many easier ways for people who want to commit identity theft to get the information on many people that they're just not going to waste the time trying to hack into your little old hard drive. Not Paranoid

As a victim of identity theft late last year, and someone who works in computer support, I would suggest you take the time to make sure you don't let your information out. Yes, it's relatively easy for someone who knows about such things to get the information off your hard drive, even if you've erased it. A couple of suggestions would be: if you want to donate it, I can suggest you contact DVMUG, the Diablo Valley Mac Users Group ( It's based in Walnut Creek. I am a member. They would probably take your donation, and certainly could be trusted not to poke through the hard drive. Alternately, you should remove the hard drive and you can then do what you will with the rest of the computer while you keep the hard drive (they're small). Good luck! Lori

Where to dump old computer equipment for cheap

June 2005

We have a computer, 2 monitors, a fax and a tv, none of which work, that we want to dispose of, but don't want to pay $40 each to get rid of them. Anyone need any of these, or if not, is there a place to dump them for cheap? Thank you. Erika

Alameda County Computer Resource Center will take it all. If you go on Fridays, the monitor and tv can be dropped off free. They charge a nominal amount ($5 or so) for the other items. They either repair/donate, or dissemble/recycle everything. Nothing gets sent overseas for toxic recycle operations. They are conveniently located on Eastshore Hwy. off Gilman in Berkeley. All the details at

2004 & Earlier

Proper disposal of dead VCR

December 2003

Our old VCR just died. What is the proper way of getting rid of it? We don't want to just put it in the trash and see it go to the landfill. We are in Walnut Creek. Thanks! Lori

Alameda County Computer Resource Center takes all kinds of consumer electronics, including VCRs. They charge a very nominal fee, and either fix and donate, or responsibly recycle everything they get. They are at 1501 Eastshore Highway (just off Gilman)in Berkeley. Not close to W.C., but maybe they can refer you to a similar place closer to you. They can be contacted at 510-528-4052. Check them out at R.K.

Place that will take non-working computers?

October 2003

Does anyone know a place that will take non-working computers? We're cleaning out our school computer lab and have a load of stuff that's old and doesn't work. I was hoping that someone would want them for a computer repair class or something but I'm having no luck. Already checked the (old) archives, checked with Urban Ore, Oakland Tech, and OTX with no luck. Thanks for any ideas! Cathy

I just recommended this group to a friend of mine: Alameda County Computer Resource Center

You can recycle old electronics (almost everything except items that have been used for food, like toasters and microwave ovens) at the non-profit Alameda County Computer Resource Center in Berkeley (at Jones and Eastshore next to I-80 near Gilman.) They charge a fee for some stuff like computer equipment and tvs. The phone number is 528-4053. Website: peter

October 2003

Does anyone know of a recycling center that accepts old computer hardware for free: CPUs, monitors, printers, peripherals? anon

Yes, there is! I'm planning on donating a nonworking printer and CDR there soon. They sound terrific: Alameda County Computer Resource Center. Jennie

I've gotten rid of a couple of old systems by leaving them out during the annual pickup days. The city won't take monitors, nor will most other groups I've contacted, but someone always takes them. Be sure to reformat the hard drive and scrub it clean of any data first. There were some helpful postings on this subject a while ago. Don't know if they're in the archives, but you might check. Upgraded

[Editor] see How to wipe a hard drive

Where to donate an old laptop

Nov 2001

Can someone tell me where I can donate/dispose of an old laptop computer? It still sort of works. A number of years ago someone came to my home and took an old computer and its peripherals that were then used in a computer repair school or maybe they broke them down and used some of the parts. I can't find these folks now. I'm less concerned about obtaining a tax deduction than I am with not adding unnecessarily to the landfill.

The Computer Academy program at Oakland Tech High School accepts donations of old PCs. It might be worth contacting them.

The Oakland Technology Exchange (OTX) recycles computer technology for the Oakland Public Schools. Even more importantly, it provides high school students with incentives to stay in school and learn skills necessary to succeed in the 21st century. OTX was started in 1992 by Bruce Buckelew, a retired IBM engineer, recycling computers for use at Tech and by Tech students at home and on their way to college

If you are interested in supporting the Oakland Technology Exchange, please call 510-879-1904 or email otx AT, or see

Alameda County Computer Resources Center (ACCRC), telephone 510-434-1325, address 5725 International Blvd., Building D, Oakland, CA 94621 is a nonprofit computer recycling and training organization. A full description of their work can be faxed to you or you may find same at: They take all computer electronics (printers, cables, monitors, etc.). There is no charge for all computer electronics donated except a $10 fee for monitors (most local dumps will charge upwards of $25 for monitors). In addition they will take anything regardless of age or working condition. They are open 10-4 M-F and 12-3 on Saturdays. Note: they also will take TV sets but in this instance they request that it is working (computers do not have to be). All material goes to places and persons who cannot afford computers, and all material is updated or made operational as part of a training program.

Nonprofit that accepts old computers?

March 2000

Does anyone know of any local (Berkeley) nonprofits or groups that will take donations of older computers? We had heard sometime back of a group that refurbishes computers and gives them to local needy families/kids. We don't want to bother trying to sell our system, but feel that someone can make good use of it (we've recently upgraded to a nicer setup). Any ideas on who we could contact? Natasha

I gave my 486 to Berkeley High last month. They have a computer department - call them and ask. David

You can donate computer equipment to Oakland Tech Where the refurbish and send computers to Oakland Public schools. They also take software, training manuals etc andrea

Great places to donate computers are the local schools. Berkeley and Albany probably have mostly what they need, but I bet Oakland is in dire need. -- Toby

For the person wanting to donate computer equipment: We gave a lot of equipment to Neighborhood Computers in Berkeley. I don't have their phone number handy, but they're on San Pablo. They do just what you suggested: refurbish systems and give them to families that otherwise can't afford a computer. They also provide training and support for the families they serve, and give you a receipt you can use when you file your taxes. Julia

We donated a computer to Oakland Technical High School about 3 years ago. At that time they had a very large lab in their basement where students volunteered time to repair computers. After putting in so many hours in the lab the student was eligible to receive a free computer to take home. The remaining computers were cycled into classrooms at Oakland Tech Kathy

Try the back pages of Computer Currents (free, available on the street throughout the East Bay); sometimes worthy causes run classified ads there asking for donated computers. Melanie

El Cerrito High can use old Macs. Contact Bob Fabini, a very nice science teacher there. He actually took my non-working Performa (minor power problem, I think) and said he'd try to fix it and lend it to a student who didn't have a computer. I was grateful--I made many phone calls before I found anyone to take my broken computer. Disposing of computers is a major environmental issue. There was an excellent article in the March 20 Examiner business section (originally a Chicago Tribune article) on the toxic hazards posed by the lead, cadmium and mercury in discarded computers and tv sets. The article also described some solutions. Bob Fabini passed on this useful info: Urban Ore in Berkeley will take old, non-working computers. They may even pay a little for them. Susan

A while ago someone asked where to donate old computers. Schools and churches are often a good place, but sometimes the computers are too old for them to be useful in such an environment. I found an organization which will take computers as old as 286's and send them to Cuba to be used to connect outlying clinics to medical journals in the major cities. They are a 501c3 and it is completely legal as long as the computers are no better than a P100. You can see some information about them at:
You can also correspond with my friend Ed who does some of the pickups/deliveries and refurbishments... His e-mail address is:
Edmund J. Biow -- Myriam

Older recommendations

Nov 1999 I am always interested in 486s that have large hard drives &/or a good amount of memory (32 mgs) as well as anything newer than a 486. Since we just got a batch from UC that I haven't gotten to yet, I passed this on to Berkeley Neighborhood Computers who fix up computers and give them to low income families in West Berkeley. The contact for Berkeley Neighborhood Computers is: Bill Mack bnc AT, bnc AT I am very fortunate that Bill takes away the parts from my putting pieces together to make a good computer and helps me out in many, many other ways. In fact, without Bill, I would not have been able to put our PC lab together several years ago. Berkeley Neighborhood Computers is also in need of human resources but I know he will communicate that with you directly as well. It is a very worthwhile program that does lots of good with very little money. Flora Russ, Berkeley High School computer teacher fruss AT



From: Toby



RE: Donations to Berkeley High: Please let the MSO in your departments know that it is possible to donate equipment, like computers, to school districts. I used to handle the equipment for our building and we regularly donated our equipment to Berkeley High school. The department needs to write a letter OKaying the donation. Talk to Bill Kumpf, UC property manager, in the Property Management unit, phone: 643-5244.

From: Bob (9/98)

Berkeley High School has a computer lab that accepts older Mac computers. I've forgotten the contact person, but she was very appreciative.

From: FM (9/98)

Someone asked about places to donate old Macintosh computers: I'd suggest contacting any school district. In particular, the more hard up school districts, like West Contra Costa County School District, or the John Swett School District (out in Rodeo). My sister teaches at John Swett, and I know she and other teachers there would LOVE donations, but seldom get them.