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topic 29505

Computer Metals Recycling


I am a disabled person and my pay is very low I am trying to find a way to subsidize my income, so I can live. I have found that there are millions of Old obsolete computers out there that people are more than glad to get rid of. I just need to know the how-to and what-of recycling these computers. What parts do you take from them. How do you retrieve the metals. Any and all information would be greatly appreciated. Two people living off of $800 a month is extremely difficult, With Dr. bills, Meds and ..... Thank you very much for your help.

Marvin J [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
Electronics - Newalla, Oklahoma, U.S.A.


Sorry for your hardships, Marvin, but they don't necessarily mean that recycling this stuff will prove feasible just because you want it to be. See letter 18889 for some data. Good luck with it.

Ted Mooney, Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey


Well, where do I start...... As far as the knowledge I hold on recycling computers goes...... Monitors, printers, and scanners are supposedly worthless. You basically have to pay people to take them. The tower itself is a different story. First you have the steel frame around it which is basically worth a penny a pound to any scrap dealer. There is also the steel cover, but sometimes it is plated with PVC vinyl which may be able to be recycled for about two cents per pound, and the plastics facilities probably want the material to be clean, and not stickered up. Past the frame there are wires, boards, drives, and hopefully a few chips (every computer has different components in it - some with added hard drives and some with no drives..... really depends on what the previous owner did with the confounded thing anyway before it wound up in some trash pile and into your hands.

The insulated copper wire in the computer averages about 7/10 of a pound. Relative scrap price is probably about 15-25 cents per pound.

The disk drives and cd drives are somewhat worthless, however there are a few that are built on a cast aluminum frame. Removal of all parts can be quite tedious, and some of the parts may not come out of the casting without some form of industrial destruction. Average price of cast is about thirty cents per pound. One may get a little more if they separate the clean cast from the dirty cast (dirty having other metals/plastics/contaminants/etc......... The older cd drives may also have a cast aluminum base, but have a few hunks of copper behind a steel plated magnetic disk(a precision screwdriver set would probably be helpful if an attempt at the diamonds in the rough is going to be made).
Not sure of an average weight on the bare copper wire, but average scrap prices are ninety cents for dirty and a dollar for clean.

The hard drive is probably going to be the most valuable drive in the computer, provided you are lucky enough to get one. All of the hard drives that I have seen are aluminum and most require torx keys to open them. T-10 Torx is the largest size that I have had to use, and T-9 is the most common, but a T-8 is definitely needed if there is an attempt to consistently recover the nickel coated aluminum disks. Unfortunately I am not too sure what the recovery value is on a pile of those disks because nobody can give me a straight answer. I was told however that they should be able to go in the old sheet category at almost any scrapyard. Price on these disks is probably about twenty five to thirty cents per pound. A T-7 key may also be needed, but I am not too sure on that one. There is also all the crap from the reader and a lot of aluminum spaced between the disks. That aluminum is in the category of clip, and has about a five to fifteen cent greater value than old sheet. The motor?...there is a little flying saucer shaped disk at the bottom of the hard drive after all the disks are removed. Not sure what all the components of that are maybe aluminum, stainless, and steel?.. Anyways that is an item that is considered Irony Aluminum, also known as breakage, and goes for about seven to ten cents per pound.

The boards are supposedly where all the money is..... right? Usually there is a motherboard, network drive cards, sound cards, and other various cards. On most motherboards there will be a heatsink with a cpu chip below it. Once removed from the board a hammer and screwdriver will usually chisel the aluminum heat sink off. The heatsink is another item that can go in the clip category.
The cpu chip is what is supposedly so valuable, but I'll get back to that one in just a moment. Also on the motherboard there should be a battery, memory cards, some ic chips (black plastic chips that are removable....pry off with a flathead, and caution because the prongs are very sharp), and if one really wants to be a shrewd miser there are sometimes small aluminum heatsinks by torroid inductors(the little circular things with copper windings all around) grab those and the copper wound inductors. Beneath the copper windings is ferrite. Not sure what the value on that is but they can go as a copper recovery item at the yards - about ten to fifteen cents per pound. Haven't really messed with the male female connectors that are to have all the gold plated pins. Also there are probably some cylindrical looking objects with a silvery top covered with plastic. I believe those are tantalum capacitors. I don't really mess around with those either. After removal of the simple objects the boards can go to select scrapyards for ten to fifty cents per pound. The network and drive cards are usually the main supplier of gold fingers and sometimes have IC chips on them too.

Now to the worst part of this whole "science experiment" is the little metal box with all the wires coming out of it. Have been told that they are worthless, so clip the wires and try to get a penny a pound out of the things (there is a copper wound torroid inductor inside the box, but since it says don't open the box due to possible live electrical current in a dead box or whatever and I have opened a couple of best description is that it is the dirtiest and ugliest mess in the computer so my best advice is don't waste your time). Some places may not want to mess around with the boxes or the disk drives so calling around first may be the best route for these items.

Now to the best part of course are the cpu/sim chips and ic chips. There are a couple of styles of sim chips. The best are the flat backed grey pentiums with the gold pins and square on the back. Aside from the gold the chip itself is 76% Tungsten, a semi-precious metal worth between two to four dollars average at some scrapyards. (Removal of these pins would probably be best suited for recovery of tungsten at a yard. Ebay seems to be a good place to sell these chips). The other chips are believed to be ceramic - they all seem to have an aluminum plate stuck to the top and a grid in the center of the square of the gold pins - the cyrix chips are I believe silicone with gold pins -Pentium II are junk - Pentium III are plastic with gold pins. There are only about three different kinds of removable ic chips that I have seen. Out of the three there are some that are in a little square on boards which can be removed with precision tools, they and other light chips are silicone chips, not sure what the metal tips are, but copper and silver can be found in these chips (very hard to get to with a me.........and what a mess). The other IC chips, believed to be high grade, have a metallic body usually with a holographic sticker covering a glass window.....below the window is quite the rare looking metal and very tiny too....I believe that it is platinum (even harder to get to due to the metal once again being 76% tungsten).

And finally to the hardest part of this experiment the time and effort to research all the metals, organize the various categories to accumulate the material, know where to cash what in at, and have enough space to store most of the scrap. It probably won't be a big money maker unless there is somebody truly dedicated to recycling these things, and can accumulate enough of them in a short amount of time to turn them over for any large amount of profit. There is always money in quantity, hence that's half the battle.

Computer recycling is not only needed but on the rise, and really now is as good of a time as any to start figuring out new ways and methods to properly dispose of technologically advanced materials (especially if they are causing ecological damage to society by going to the landfills). There are a lot of other odds and ends to computers too. I have been in the scrap industry for a few years now and having had access to a thirty five thousand dollar hand held Niton x-ray machine...I guess curiosity got the best of me at times and helped me stumble across the percentages and values of certain objects. Know your material and don't get ripped off. Know how much weight you have before you cash in, and remember that some items are only worth going for if one were to plan on saving a considerably large amount. It may be worth the time to you or it may not. Who knows?...

Well I hope that what little knowledge I possess will benefit somebody else as it has myself. If you choose to recycle computers there are hundreds of ways and many possibilities - just find your niche and have fun.......

Bruce O [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Willoughby, Ohio

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