E-Waste’s Role in the Digital Divide

Beyond the Laptops’ computer refurbishment partner Computer Reach was a tremendous ally in our race to get devices into community hands. Their incredible team and a dedicated volunteer army worked nonstop for a month to launch a historic effort to refurbish 1200+ laptops. In this guest blog, Computer Reach’s Lainey Yockey discusses the social and environmental benefits of computer refurbishment, calling upon our allies across the Greater Pittsburgh Region to consider donating devices.

From sending emails and maintaining an online calendar to selling products and building customer relationships, technology and internet access are central to maintaining daily business operations. With new laptop and desktop models being released every year, it can be tempting to buy new devices to reap the benefits of increased security, enhanced operating systems, and high definition displays. 

However, here’s an important question: What do you do with an old device when you get a new one? Do you throw it away? Trade it in? Put it in a storage closet? All of these questions play a fundamental role in understanding e-waste and the impact that it has on our communities. 

The Impact of Electronic Waste (E-Waste)

When a device becomes redundant, requires new parts, or is broken, some companies might rush to throw it in the trash. However, did you know that in Pennsylvania, electronic materials are actually banned from being dropped off at municipal solid waste landfills? The reason for this is because electronics contain “complex combinations of highly toxic substances,” and when they’re not properly disposed of, they can “pose a danger to health and the environment.” Another contributing factor is the fact that electronics are designed to not decompose, meaning that something as simple as the glass of a laptop or cell phone could take as long as one to two million years to break down.

However, e-waste is more than just detrimental to the environment, it’s detrimental to the people living in your communities as well. According to the Pew Research Center, more than 25 million adults in the United States of America don’t have access to the internet. Because they lack access to a digital device, these families often have trouble completing basic functions such as paying bills, accessing school work, and ordering groceries online without traveling to their local library. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many families have been cut off from these services altogether. 

Addressing E-Waste and the Digital Divide

With COVID-19 actively spreading in the United States, it’s unlikely that families will be able to access the digital services they need from the locations they visited prior to the pandemic. Because of this, it’s important that companies and community members do their part in bridging the digital divide by donating their unused laptops and technologies to organizations, such as Computer Reach, that can properly refurbish and recycle electronic products. If your company is replacing laptops or desktop computers every few years, take those opportunities to donate to ensure that unused technologies get into the hands of those who need them. 

What You Can Do

Computer Reach is calling on all companies and individuals to go through your storage, find what technologies are going unused, and donate them to organizations that work to repair, refurbish, and distribute tech to local communities. If you’re interested in donating laptops, computer monitors, desktop computers, or iOS and Android devices, visit the Computer Reach website to complete our Computer Donation Form. All companies that donate can receive a receipt of donated products.

Thus far, Computer Reach has received technology donations from large entities such as Highmark, the University of Pittsburgh, Phillips, Veolia, ModCloth, and Crown Castle. Through their donations, our organization has been able to get thousands of students and community members connected. 

More Information

For more information and to view our community impact statistics, visit the Computer Reach website.  

Written By: Lainey Yockey, Computer Reach Social Media Contractor