Wednesday, June 29, 2011

How Old Is Old?

The Green Phone Booth welcomes back Betsy of Eco-novice.

Photo credit: ▌ÇP▐


My Sony Vaio laptop is 6 years old. Do you think that’s old for a computer? My husband (an electrical engineer savvy in all things computer-related) thinks it is very, very old. So old, in fact, that when I complained about needing a new laptop battery (since the original battery now lasts 0.5 seconds), he suggested I get a new laptop instead. He told me the new Sony battery would cost around $200, but that a new laptop would cost maybe $600. My husband said he didn’t want to spend $200 on a new battery when my laptop might die any second.


When this conversation first occurred (it replayed itself periodically for the next many months), I had just written a post about electronics waste, and I just couldn’t bring myself to dump and replace my still functioning laptop. But I did find not having a functioning battery very annoying. I have small children so we have to hide cords behind large pieces of cardboard under our desks, and even simply moving the power source was a hassle (not to mention that I had to turn on and off my laptop to move it). And, yes, I tried an external battery, but if I jiggled it even slightly it disconnected and my laptop immediately turned off, so it wasn’t any better than the original power source really. My laptop had basically become a desktop.


But, don’t worry, this story has a happy ending. Many months later, my husband informed me he had found a knock-off battery on Amazon. This battery cost $60, which my husband was OK with spending on my nearly-obsolete, one-foot-in-the-grave laptop. I figured that replacing the battery was so far superior to replacing my entire computer that I immediately bought it. We’ve been happily chugging along ever since.


But what if my laptop (or other electronic device) really does bite the dust? What then?


First, I will find a responsible place to recycle my dead laptop or other electronic device. You can find a list of responsible electronics recyclers near you here. At least once a month I get a flyer for free electronics and/or metal hauling left on my doorstep. That seems like a convenient option, but my sister, who used to work for Goodwill (which does recycle computers responsibly), tipped me off that many of these places turn around and sell your electronic refuse overseas, where it is handled in an extremely hazardous manner to both the persons disassembling it, and to the local and global environments. For more information on responsibly recycling your obsolete or dead electronic devices, check out this Guide to Recycling Your Electronics.


Second, I will consult resources for identifying “greener electronics” before making my purchase. I will also consider purchasing a refurbished device. My sister had a good experience buying a refurbished flat screen and desktop from Goodwill.


Whether you need to replace your electronics or not, consider taking action to promote responsible recycling of electronics.


How do you decide when it’s time to replace an electronic device?

6 comments:

brendie said...

when its completely ......

Jenn the Greenmom said...

How funny...my post today was the old "so when is it time to get rid of my iPhone and cough up the dough for a new smartphone" question. :-) I'm struggling with the same stuff...

FWIW, I'm typing this on my fairly aged (can't remember...maybe 2007 or 2006?) Toshiba Satellite, on which I just replaced the highly sticky keyboard (which I know I could have cleaned, but it was getting fairly gross) and better still upgraded from 1G to 4G RAM for something like $60...she's all zippy again, everything seems to be going nicely, and replacing these two tiny DIMMs instead of the whole laptop is making me feel fairly virtuous about the whole thing...I did the cheap knockoff battery thing last year too, and all is still fine...

Betsy (Eco-novice) said...

Jenn, I have a GoPhone that I hope I don't need to replace for at least 10 yrs. So glad your off-brand battery is still working! Looking into replacing specific parts sounds like a great option in the future too. Although my laptop was purchased in 2005... Not sure how many more yrs I can suck out of it, as we all know these devices are no longer built to last.

Heather said...

Our 5 yr old Toshiba laptop crashed about 3 weeks ago. I will hold onto it until next spring (yep, a full year) so I can turn it in at our city's Eco-Cycling Round Up...

Rosa said...

I have a desktop because it's easier to fix/upgrade than a laptop - our last desktop lasted 10+ years, if you don't count how many of the parts were new over time. We finally replaced it when it up and died - but didn't have to replace the screen or peripherals (my screen keeps threatening to kick it, though - sometimes it just shuts itself down.)

My partner's a programmer, but he works with Linux which mostly uses less memory, so he doesn't have the typical geek view of old electronics.

Condo Blues said...

I built my desktop. I replace and swap out parts with my husband's computer as needed. We both work in IT and need robust machines.


I found a local charity that takes dead parts and co outdrew and locally recycles them. They use any working parts to build Linux computers for the underserved.

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