What You Can Do - more
- Buy Used - You don't always have to buy the newest and greatest pieces of hardware to make your net, uh, work - sometimes a used piece of hardware will work just as well. Be on the lookout for factory-refurbished routers, switches, NASes, and other components. Or even put your Craigslist searching abilities to use and pick up pre-loved equipment.
- Sell or donate - Similarly, just because you don't need that old router or wireless access point doesn't mean someone else won't want it. The same rules for getting used equipment apply to disposing of that equipment. You can send them back to the retailer to be refurbished and resold. You can sell it on eBay or Craigslist. You can donate it to a deserving local school or non-profit organization. Or you can even donate it to a computing museum if it's old enough (or keep it in storage until it is).
When donating or selling your old equipment, however, be sure you don't also reuse your old information. Wipe all hard drives, clear all stored passwords and encryption keys, empty all non-volatile RAM (but be sure to replace any factory firmware for the benefit of the recipient), and make sure no trace of your presence is left behind.
- Repurpose - Even if you can't find a new home for your old gear, you can still put it to work on your network in a different role. Try installing a distribution of Linux on your old router and using it as a firewall, intrusion detection system, or even a web server with DD-WRT or OpenWRT. Re-crimp your old network cables to make crossover cables for use between computers. Disable an old router's DHCP server and use it as a switch.
- In case of emergency - Keep old networking equipment in a good storage closet so you can use it later when your network expands. Networking equipment is fairly resistant against the cycle of obsoletion that plagues its computer counterparts, and so it will still be useful several years down the line when you want to put in that new segment. And don't rule out the possibility that your new equipment will succumb to the mercy of power surges, natural disasters, or simple failure - old equipment can prove vital to uptime in the face of the unpredictable.
Release and renew the lifespan of your router with DD-WRT
- Dispose responsibly - If you must get rid of your old equipment, don't throw it into the trash! There are many e-waste disposal specialists out there who are more than happy (for a fee) to take the waste off your hands. While it might pain you to spend money to get rid of a product, you can console yourself with the thought that you're doing the right thing for the environment.
However, many of these specialists just send the waste to other countries to be processed, instead of dealing with the problems themselves. Who can you trust? The Basel Action Network maintains a list of responsible recyclers who have pledged to prevent waste they handle from being transferred to third-party centers (such as developing countries, prisons, or landfills) to be 'recycled'.
- Many communities have toxic waste collection days a few times a year when you can bring your e-waste to be responsibly recycled for little or no cost. Keep an eye on your local newspaper or check with your local government.
- Take advantage of retailers' recycling programs - While take-back programs for networking gear are hard to find, more common e-waste is easier to get rid of responsibly:
Best Buy has free drop-off kiosks in each store for cell phones, rechargeable batteries and ink-jet printer cartridges. It also runs recyling events around the U.S., which, unfortunately, don't list networking gear as acceptable products.
Radio Shack also has free recycling for cell phones and batteries.
Take advantage of Staples' Recycle for Education program or visit Office Depot to recycle ink and toner cartridges.
- E.U. citizens can put hardware manufacturers to work for them, with the advent of the WEEE Directive. To comply with the directive, manufacturers such as D-Link, Netgear, and Linksys all offer product take-back schemes and other recycling initiatives to help users get rid of their old equipment. The schemes vary from country to country, so contact your device manufacturer for more information on what kinds of local recycling options are available.
The WEEE Man is made up of over 3.6 tons of e-waste such as TVs, computers, washers and dryers.
For more information, you can check out the website.
The truth may be inconvenient, but the solution is easier than you may think. Think of it as just another step in planning out your purchase: check reviews, check environmental impacts, check prices, and buy.
By taking a few moments to think about some of the ways in which you can take a bite out of e-waste. And by educating yourself on the political, economic, and environmental problems and solutions associated with e-waste, you can take the lead on solving this problem.
In the words of 90's children's television icon Captain Planet: "The power is yours!"
Happy Earth Day!