When you upgrade to a slimmer keyboard or switch to a laptop, you may be left wondering what to do with the old keyboard. Can you recycle it, or should you just chuck it in the nearest trash can?
Keyboards can and should be recycled. Keyboards, like other e-waste products, contain metals and plastics that can damage the environment if they’re left in a landfill. A keyboard can be recycled by its manufacturer or by a recycling center through a store chain or local municipality.
While the short answer is that you can recycle your keyboard, that doesn’t mean it’s as simple as throwing it in a recycling bin. Here is everything you need to know about properly recycling your keyboard most effectively.
Don’t Throw it Away!
Keyboards are considered hazardous waste. The components of keyboards and other e-wastes can be harmful to the environment if they’re left to decay in a landfill. We’ve already got enough garbage piled up around the planet, we don’t need to add any e-waste to it, even if you think keyboards are too mechanical to be considered “e-waste.”
These components include the plastic parts of the keyboard, like the keys and the casing, and the metal parts, which could make up the circuit and wiring. These metals may include copper, steel, and/or aluminum. Some keyboards have silver in them as well. (Source)
One of the hazards presented by keyboards left in landfills is the brominated flame retardant that coats the plastic. This chemical is possibly carcinogenic (meaning it may cause cancer), and if it’s left out in the elements, it could end up being eroded from the plastic and swept into the surrounding environment. (Source)
Those same components are still valuable, though, and when delivered to the proper facility, they can be recycled. This will keep them from damaging the environment while at the same time being useful as parts of new products. It’s always better to keep materials we’ve already used in use so that we don’t need to make more from scratch.
If the keyboard still works, the best thing you can do is to find someone else who can use it. Resuing is always better than recycling, so if you have a friend or a family member in need of a keyboard, giving it to them is your best option.
If no one you know needs it, you could try selling it online through sites like eBay or Craigslist. If you don’t care about the money or don’t want to deal with any hassle of selling it online, you could also donate it to a thrift store. That way, the keyboard stays in circulation as a keyboard instead of being broken down.
When possible, reusing is a better option than recycling because it uses a lot less energy. The process of recycling demands fuel for the machines that do the recycling, along with a lot of time put in by the people who do the sorting to make it happen. Reusing the keyboard keeps it in one piece that doesn’t require any further processing.
Local Recycling Centers
Your first thought when going to recycle your keyboard may be to put it in the recycling bin or to drop it off at your local recycling center. However, it’s not as simple as that. While these are the most obvious places to recycle, they’re not always the best bet in terms of actually getting the materials recycled.
The problem with these facilities is that they don’t all recycle things the best way, if at all. Some shred and bale their keyboards, or just export them to an overseas landfill. Check with your local recycling centers to see what they do with the stuff before recycling with them.
Contact your local recycling facility for information on recycling policies in your area. Be aware that their location may be based on your city, county, or town.
Different states and municipalities have different policies, practices, and standards regarding recycling, so calling your local recycling center will be the best way for you to learn about what materials they accept and how they process them.
If they actually recycle their materials into new products, then definitely recycle there. If not, they may just be shipping it off like garbage overseas to pollute some foreign landfill.
Where to Recycle
When you just want to get rid of a broken keyboard, the first thing to do is to contact the company that manufactured the keyboard in the first place. These companies might be able to take it back to recycle it themselves. Even if they don’t end up recycling the materials themselves, they usually have their own means of responsibly disposing of e-waste.
This will depend on your keyboard’s manufacturer, of course, since they’re not all the same. Ask them if they recycle old materials, and make sure that the way that they do it is environmentally responsible (you don’t want to send them your keyboard to be recycled if they’re just going to ship it to an overseas landfill).
One company that responsibly recycles keyboards is ERI. They do a lot more than recycle keyboards, but their purpose is to help both organizations, people, and the environment, so you can trust that they’ll dispose of your keyboard in the best way possible for all involved. ERI breaks down electronic waste into its raw components so that they can be used in new products.
You can also take your keyboard to a computer store to be recycled. Big box stores like Best Buy and Staples have e-waste recycling programs. Both will recycle keyboards for free. You don’t even have to purchase anything from the store in order to use the program.
Check your local area for e-waste recycling centers around you, as there may be a center near you that does a higher-quality job. For example, Bluegrass Recycle demanufacturers keyboards instead of shredding them. This keeps the different components in whole pieces, which makes for easier sorting and reprocessing.
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