e-waste – how to handle it

This post is applicable to EVERYONE – not just the original poster. This is my reply to their question on SpiceWorks. When I started, I wasn’t planning to write a full on instructional manual, but I have, more or less. I have years of experience with e-waste reclamation, in south Florida. One thing I don’t mention below – you’ll want to watch your local scrap prices for steel/irony, copper and aluminum. Don’t jump the gun and take a small amount of scrap in when the prices reach a high, they fluctuate, and will be higher again. Now, onto my actual reply:

No one buys e-waste. Recyclers sell their services to businesses, to take the gear. They then strip it all down, and recycle the various components. You’re paying for that time, and the cost to recycle the non-metal portions. Any money made on the back-end with metals scrap is their actual profit.

Your old but still usable gear… don’t pay someone to haul it off. Reset bioses, firmware, DoD wipe drives… and give the stuff to some kid who can use it to learn, schools and libraries, sell on ebay, or keep as spare parts. This is how to do that, within a business, environmental, social and legal sense (at least in most places, I think), and maybe even for a small profit of your own ("your own" being speculative, your business may want the funds, or allow for the funds to be added to a departmental slush fund, after work party, etc)

First and foremost – TRACK EVERYTHING ON PAPER! Any gear which leaves the ownership of the business NEEDS to be written down, and preferably authorized by management above you. Especially if you are the recipient of said equipment. The recipient also needs to print their name and sign. This is totally a CYA thing, and though may not be required by law or company policy – make it your own policy and NEVER DO WITHOUT! I’ve seen this bite people in the ass years later.

Your best bet would be to find an entrepreneurial high school student, and guide them into building an e-recycling business. No one in the US will buy your old gear, much less pay shipping for it. Not that level of waste, anyways. RAM, CPUs, motherboards and expansion cards have higher value due to the potential gold content – these you might be able to sell to someone willing to take the time to reclaim the gold and copper. Old drives, heatsinks, cases, PC power supplies – these all have the highest value for metal scrappers, and if there’s a metals recycling center near you – it would be worth your time to collect the stuff until you have enough to spend a saturday breaking it all down to "clean" metals – removal of any plastic, boards, and to separate the metal types. This is where that high school student would come in. There’s at least three different metals in most hard drives (aluminum, steel/irony and rare metals from the platters and possibly magnets). Heat sinks are almost always aluminum and/or copper these days, and are pure profit for scrappers. The PCBs, if they do not have re-use value (You’d be surprised what people buy in the way of old working tech! Check ebay!) can be gathered up, with the steel and plastic stripped off and sold in lots to gold reclaimation businesses. This is a mightily dirty, toxic and dangerous work, so you’ll often be lucky to a dollar or two per motherboard, and less for PCI/PCIe cards. This isn’t the work for most people, and the start-up costs are considerable if done properly to protect the environment – lots of waste heavy metals and acids that need to be properly handled.

So, ultimately, this is what I would do:
For any whole/complete or mostly complete equipment which still works (or can with the addition of some parts): Sell on ebay, locally, or give to a student aspiring to get into IT, or for old desktops, donate to a local school. This includes printers, monitors, etc as well.
For old /working/ components (RAM, CPU, motherboards): sell on ebay. Being they’re small components, the shipping isn’t horrible, especially if you give a local-pickup option, or charge more for off-island shipping.
For non-functional components: Start a collection box, strip off the larger pieces of plastic, steel and aluminum, and put the "cleaned" components in another box. Take the steel and aluminum to your local recycling center to get paid for your time.
Computer cases, heat sinks, HDDs, PSUs, etc: strip off any plastic, and separate the steel, copper and aluminum. Use cleaned PC cases as collection bins for steel items (such as brackets from expansion cards) – once a case is full, take the whole thing in as steel/irony scrap. The same can be done for copper and aluminum too, one metal per case.
Non-functional "cleaned" PCBs and HDDs: Collect the HDD platters separately from the rest (above) and sell in lots by number or weight to metal reclamation business – possibly the same people who will buy the PCBs for gold and copper reclamation.
For non-functional systems & gear: Deconstruct these to their base materials and components and start at the top of this list again.

Your biggest cost then will be the plastics recycling, which you might be able to pay someone locally to pickup for recycling. SOME plastics can be sent through a shredder and melted down into 3D printer prototyping filament spools, but not something you’re liking to do yourself. Of course, the rest of the stuff, you’ll need storage space for, but that can be as little space as a couple office chairs, especially if you dedicate a shelving unit. Anything you sell on ebay will cost posting fees, and anything you sell in working order will need to be shipped in anti-static bags and bubble wrap. To be cheap, you can re-use the bubble wrap and AS bags from equipment you’ve ordered. Boxes too.

Anything above where I said "you" can also mean anyone else. But, don’t expect them to purchase the gear from you to do that work. If your company would allow it, you can possibly "hire" a high school kid to be your e-waste recycling "contractor" – Someone who would be willing to pick up your gear for free and do all the work. If you build up a nice pile, enough for a week’s worth of work, that would be enough to get them started as a business. Advocate for them to other businesses in your domain, to get them going. But, you’ll need someone who you can trust to actually do the work properly, as your concerns are environmental and not profit based. Doing this would ensure the components stay out of the landfills (and the environment) – AND help to start up a new business. Win-Win!

Oh, and if you want to get really into it, fans have copper coils which can be removed, collected and sold as scrap. It’ll take a couple hundred to have enough copper to really be worth anything, but popping the motor out of the shroud and removing the blades is done easily enough, resulting in much less space needed for storing until enough is collected to tear down.

CRT and LCD monitors, these can be de-constructed as well, but they require extra special care and handling. The light bulbs are similar to the tube lights in your ceilings, and LCD panels can’t easily be recycled, so they would have to be shipped off. Thankfully, most "dead" LCD monitors only require new PCBs to become functional again – so repairing them is often more cost saving then replacing, and for the ones which aren’t to be re-used, the internal components and LCD panels can be sold on ebay – ESPECIALLY if the monitor was working when decommissioned, so you can say that it is in working order, the same for the PCBs (power, control, I/O boards) On common and more expensive monitors, and ones which use standard VESA mounts, the stands can be sold separately. I would keep any working external power supply bricks though, especially if your company has the same monitors on a lot of desks.

Which brings me to my last point: Spare parts. Keep them, at least for a while. If it’s something that is replaced with another – such as someone in the company getting a new desktop, but their old one is still in working condition and it’s newer than a Pentium II, keep it. If you hire a new employee, you’ll have a PC on hand, at least to get them started with until a new PC can be purchased or built. Once a quarter or so, take the oldest half to a school, library, etc – make a drive of it and go out to areas where they’ll really be appreciated.

Dark mode and more

This could be considered an RFC of sorts.

It’s intended to be a starting point for professional designers to create a color standard for 4 different brightness modes of UI display – from near black to high contrast bright.

There are a set of 4 base optometry categories – Normal vision, Deutaranopia, Protanopia and Tritanopia. Each category has 4 basic scheme modes based on brightness. There are 2 modifiers, modifying 2 modes each. Each scheme has 4 hue offset options for gray colors.

In total, we have 4 vision categories, 4 base schemes, 4 modified schemes (equalling 8 schemes) with 4 hue offsets each. That’s 4x8x8, or 256 schemes. There are 8 grays, plus black and white, giving a total of 10 gray colors per scheme, or 2560 color value entries, with some colors to be duplicated.

The scheme names are based on daily solar cycles:
Daylight – "normal" light mode.
Sunset – Daylight plus orange mask.
Twilight – Dark & light grays, higher contrast, no black or white.
Dusk – Twilight plus orange mask.
Midnight – Darker than Twilight, lower contrast, no mask
Sunrise – Twilight with a blue mask
Morning – Lower contrast version of Daylight, white/black are offset slightly towards gray
Noon – Daylight, higher contrast, brighter hues and blue mask

The schemes have 4 color hue offsets. These hues allow for B&W grays, or offset to red, green or blue. This allows for a more comfortable experience for the user, if they prefer a slight color to the grays. This also allows for aesthetic integration with the rest of the color pallet used in the UI; color correction for monitor temperature differences; and user comfortability resolutions.

The schemes can be represented as:
normal – daylight – key (white)
normal – dusk – red
Deutaranopia – morning – blue
normal – midnight – key (black)

Ideally, there will be mechanisms in place for the use, and ommission of these color schemes. Once such ommission example would be for the display window for graphic artists and video editors. These professions rely on color accuracy for their jobs.

There would also be mechanisms in place for automatic controlled selection of schematic based on time of day and environmental light levels. Also to allow user-created scheme rotation sets which adjust based on time of day, light level and trigger events. There should also be the ability to permanently set a scheme by the user. The schemes should be toggleable for use with full screen video and games.

The four masked schemes should be used for circadian manipulation – blue to help the user wake up, stay awake and focus; orange to help the user to begin to relax after a long day, and which can help with computer use related sleep issues.

All effort should be made to create all 8 schemes available for the 3 categories of colorblind users as well. A set of grays, based on rgbk will be needed, preferably 8 grays, plus black and white, for the basic color schemes.  This will allow for enough contrast for monochromatic UIs, with true monochromatic settings eliminating all color hue, with a total of 256 different grays, where r,g,b are equal values.  A full-hue color scheme, representing all of the 8 bit rgba (for a total of 32 bit color) gamut can have the color hue decreased or eliminated, resulting in a high definition monochromatic display, and is easiest done with hardware, however, there is limited advantages of this compared to 256 grays with 256 alpha channels (resulting in 65,536 potential colors)  The focus here, however is to create a set of color pallets used for UI designers which can be used as the basis for basic display colors for all "color modes"

These schemes contain the basic grays used, and should be more than sufficient to provide a basis for any non-gray color theme for any OS, app or web design. There is also the potential for these schemes to be useful in print and other visual displays.

I have create an incomplete table of all optometry categories, masks, schemes and color hues. The normal vision category being the most complete, missing only the color values. Example values provided are just examples and may need to modified for any real world application.

The purpose of this table is to allow designers to quickly and easily create schemes for their project which will be 100% compatible in gray scale with other projects using the same standard schemes. However, this still leaves artistic space for non-gray accent and base colors, allowing for full themes to use any color atop of the base scheme. This should result in a total overall expeirence with mixed themes that feels natural and integrated. A mixed theme same scheme environment will allow for differnt programs and elements to have different colors atop of the same scheme. An example of this would be using VLC and Facebook Messenger on Windows, where the Dusk scheme is applied; Windows could then have white theme, VLC and orange theme, and Messenger a blue theme – however the window, background, text are all based on the Dusk scheme and so all UI elements use the same grays. This would carry between OSes, Desktop Environments and browsers, resulting in the same gays being displayed for the same scheme on all devices.

This, unfortunately, can still result in different hues presented to the view while using multiple monitors and displays, as there are differences between manufacturers, pixel colors, backlights, and color temperatures – as well as age affected color distortions. However, these issues can either be manually adjusted per monitor settings, or ignored.

The focus of this, again, is to provide a standard means of designers to have access to a set of color values to present their works in a unifed way. However, it would be much more ideal for APIs and libraries to be written for each OS, browser, and Desktop Environment (KDE, Gnome, Explorer, etc) where the program, app and web page are slave to the user’s setting, thus elimating any need for manual adjustment or bloated code bases for each element, window, app, etc. This would also be a user-optional system to use, with custom full themes being able to override the system theme/scheme, such as the case with Linux desktop environment theme packs.

Below is the incomplete image of an ascii table representation of this, with "normal vision" being the most complete, yet missing most of the color value data: