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This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

Procedures to Protect the Environment (2.1.3)

Most computers and peripherals use and contain at least some materials that can be considered toxic to the environment. This section describes tools and procedures that help identify these materials and the steps for the proper handling and disposal of the materials.

Material Safety and Datasheet (2.1.3.1)

Computers and peripherals contain materials that can be harmful to the environment. Hazardous materials are sometimes called toxic waste. These materials can contain high concentrations of heavy metals such as cadmium, lead, or mercury. The regulations for the disposal of hazardous materials vary by state or country. Contact the local recycling or waste removal authorities in your community for information about disposal procedures and services.

A Material Safety and Data Sheet (MSDS) is a fact sheet that summarizes information about material identification, including hazardous ingredients that can affect personal health, fire hazards, and first-aid requirements. The MSDS contains chemical reactivity and incompatibility information. It also includes protective measures for the safe handling and storage of materials and spill, leak, and disposal procedures.

To determine whether a material is classified as hazardous, consult the manufacturer’s MSDS. In the United States, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires that all hazardous materials be accompanied by an MSDS when transferred to a new owner. The MSDS information included with products purchased for computer repairs or maintenance can be relevant to computer technicians. OSHA also requires that employees be informed about the materials that they are working with and be provided with material safety information. Figure 2-1 shows the OSHA website where you can find the MSDS form and more information.

The MSDS contains valuable information:

  • Name of the material
  • Physical properties of the material
  • Hazardous ingredients contained in the material
  • Reactivity data, such as fire and explosion data
  • Procedures for spills and leaks
  • Special precautions
  • Health hazards
  • Special protection requirements

In the European Union, the regulation Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and restriction of Chemicals (REACH) came into effect on June 1, 2007, replacing various directives and regulations with a single system.

Equipment Disposal (2.1.3.2)

The proper disposal or recycling of hazardous computer components is a global issue. Make sure to follow regulations that govern how to dispose of specific items. Organizations that violate these regulations can be fined or face expensive legal battles.

Batteries

Batteries often contain rare earth metals that can be harmful to the environment. Batteries from portable computer systems can contain lead, cadmium, lithium, alkaline manganese, and mercury. These metals do not decay and remain in the environment for many years. Mercury is commonly used in the manufacturing of batteries and is extremely toxic and harmful to humans.

Recycling batteries should be a standard practice for a technician. All batteries, including lithium-ion, nickel-cadmium, nickel-metal hydride, and lead-acid, are subject to disposal procedures that comply with local environmental regulations.

Monitors

Monitors contain glass, metal, plastics, lead, barium, and rare earth metals. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), monitors can contain approximately 4 pounds (1.8 kg) of lead. Monitors must be disposed of in compliance with environmental regulations.

Handle CRT monitors with care. Extremely high voltage can be stored in CRT monitors, even after being disconnected from a power source.

Toner Kits, Cartridges, and Developers

Used printer toner kits and printer cartridges must be disposed of properly or recycled. Some toner cartridge suppliers and manufacturers take empty cartridges for refilling. Some companies specialize in refilling empty cartridges. Kits to refill inkjet printer cartridges are available but are not recommended, because the ink might leak into the printer, causing irreparable damage. Using refilled inkjet cartridges might also void the inkjet printer warranty.

Chemical Solvents and Aerosol Cans

Contact the local sanitation company to learn how and where to dispose of the chemicals and solvents used to clean computers. Never dump chemicals or solvents down a sink or dispose of them in a drain that connects to public sewers.

The cans or bottles that contain solvents and other cleaning supplies must be handled carefully. Make sure that they are identified and treated as special hazardous waste. For example, some aerosol cans explode when exposed to heat if the contents are not completely used.

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