Wednesday, December 12, 2007

No More...Computer?

My computer is dying again, apparently due to a failing hard drive. I'll be ordering a new hard drive shortly and should hopefully have it installed within the next few weeks. In the meantime, though, my posts might become sporadic again.

Once my hard drive is replaced, I plan to return to posting in full force. However, if the problem isn't the hard drive, I'm going to face an interesting plastic- and waste-related question:

Do I send my whole computer back to Dell and spend hundreds of dollars getting it repaired, or do I buy a brand-new, problem-free computer for just a few hundred dollars more?

Argh. I guess my goal to use less plastic dictates that I send it back, but I don't want to. Can someone please provide me with some electronic waste statistics that will convince me to send my computer in?


Neal said...

Is this a laptop?

LifeLessPlastic said...

Neal G., is that you?

Yep, it's a Dell laptop...

Neal said...

It's me!

Electronic waste disposal is a nasty problem, especially for laptops, which have a lot of parts that just can't be reused. And, of course, if you have a computer, you have to buy a new one periodically, because they become obsolete five seconds after you buy them. It's ugly.

If you want to avoid sinking hundreds of dollars into a machine that, were it not for the environmental concerns, would otherwise be much more wisely spent on a new computer, there might be a way out.

On the disposal side: If the computer's still reasonably salvageable, chances are someone on eBay will take it off your hands, and maybe even give you a few bucks for it. I just got rid of an old motherboard/CPU/RAM combination that had something wrong with it that I didn't have the spare parts to isolate. It's still out there, but someone else may be able to make better use of the parts than you can. Dell also has a recycling program for old computers.

On the consumption side: any new computer will generate some amount of environmental damage, due to plastics and everything else. You can buy refurbished machines, even laptops, which will help with this somewhat (Dell does sell refurbished laptops through their online store). Also, to get in my obligatory Mac advocacy: while I'm sure MacBook Pros still have plenty of plastic in them, the case, at least, is aluminum. :)

All that said, the best way to limit environmental damage by buying computers is obviously by buying them as infrequently as possible, and the way to do that is to buy toward the top end when you do buy one. Putting a few hundred dollars into a non-obsolete laptop isn't that much compared to what a high-end new one would cost ($1500 at least); that might be something that would make the repair cost more palatable. The Wikipedia article on electronic waste also has some disturbing facts about the damage that electronic waste does (some of them might even be true!), if you're looking for something to guilt you into getting it repaired.

LifeLessPlastic said...

Neal! Thanks for the excellent info! Maybe I'll take your comments and turn them into a post one of these days.

As far my computer, I'm really, really hoping it's just the hard drive, but I like your ideas. If my computer is still not working, it sounds like I should probably just recycle or sell my old one and buy a really good quality computer that will hopefully last a little longer. I should also get an extended warranties to guarantee that my computer will last me at least 3 years.

Shannon Hodgins said...

Speaking as the wife of a husband that owns a computer business, repair and refurbish as much as possible.

Remember,often times what we "think" is obselete is just our perception.

Find a local person to do the work as opposed to the Geek Squad or Best Buy. They will give you a much better and honest answer as to the timelife of your unit. Shannon

Anonymous said...

I can only speak for myself but I would say that since most of the day I'm at the computer, this whole plastic avoidance would be a waste of time effort unless I could first replace, at minimum the mouse, keyboard and display frame with plastic free alternative. The only thing I can do right now is to avoid using brand new things and let them be open in storage for a year or two before use (like I do with clothes), in hopes that most of the bad stuff will degas / off-gas / outgas (whatever is the term) from the plastic.

Do you have a blog which details all the computer products made from eg. ceramic/glass? I'd avoid wood items as those can contain living bugs and thus need to be sprayed with pesticide in order to be exported.