Nine Eco-Friendly Things You Can Do With Your Broken Laptop

You might not realise it, but the whole world is transitioning to a zero-waste economy, when items like laptop computers will be made from responsibly managed parts and waste will be more or less eliminated. We’re not as far from that as people think. In future we probably won’t even own the laptops, just pay for using them. It’s all here in the Ellen MacArthur Foundation website.

Meanwhile, laptops still contain many toxic ingredients including lead, cadmium, dioxins, furans, phthalates and brominated flame retardants. Many of these end up on one of the world’s e-waste mountains, like the e-waste centre of Agbogbloshie, Ghana, where electronic waste is burnt and disassembled with no safety or environmental considerations.

e-waste centre, Agbogbloshie, Ghana

According to Wikipedia,

“Exposure to these fumes is especially hazardous to children, as these toxins are known to inhibit the development of the reproductive system, nervous system, and the brain in particular. In similar e-waste processing areas, with conditions and demographics like those of Agbogbloshie, 80% of the children have dangerous levels of lead in their blood. Inhabitants often suffer from chronic nausea, headaches, chest and respiratory problems.

I know you don’t want your old laptop going there. So here are some things you can do with it instead:

  1. You can learn to fix it (“the one you own is the most sustainable” – I love that saying), ifixit is the place to go. I’ll tell you now: whatever’s wrong, it’s either the hardware or the software or the way it’s set up.
  2. You can get someone else to fix it. Not as much fun but maybe more reliable
  3. You can take it to The Restart Project
  4. You can take it to a repair cafe like The Horsham Repair Cafe where someone can help you get it fixed
  5. You can give it to a school that needs it
  6. You can make a 3D printer. Hard to believe? Well check out this video .This one’s made from old computer parts
3-D printer from computer bits

7. You can make artwork out of it

8. You can dispose of it responsibly. The EPA website provides a list of organisations that offer take-back and recycling of electronics in the USA.  In the EU vendors are bound by waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) regulations. They must either:

provide a free, in store, take back service to their customers, set up an alternative, free take back service or join the Distributor Takeback Scheme (DTS).

9. You can start a local tech take-back scheme. If you happen to live in Brighton, UK there already is one. I’m sure there are similar in other countries too. Or start your own.

Do you have more things to do with a broken laptop? Why not share them adding your comment?



  • Interesting idea, I never thought about it. When a laptop starts acting up I usually try to fix it, and if that fails, I’ll just throw it away. But thanks for reminding me about the toxic chemicals inside laptops!

    • Quite a few mending workshops have sprung up recently (I used to take the back of pc’s myself). It seems so hard to get parts that are not hazardous in some way but I think a genuinely zero-waste laptop will be released before too long.

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