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Can CPUs be recycled?

The Environmental Impact of CPU Recycling
Last Updated on August 8, 2023
CPUs, recycled.
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Are you thinking of what to do with your outdated, abandoned CPU? Find out in this post if you can recycle it.

A central processing unit, or CPU for short, is an essential component of a computer. You must have learned about the functions of a CPU on a computer. But you may not know that it contains valuable metals such as gold, platinum, silicon, copper, and more. So with this information, do you think your old central processing unit is worth recycling?

Are CPUs Recyclable?

Absolutely, central processing units (CPUs), often referred to as “processors” or “chips,” are recyclable. These essential computer components contain a wealth of precious metals and raw materials that can be extracted, refined, and reused.

The Value in CPU Recycling

Whether you have a Pentium from the early 2000s or a more recent crystal-powered chip, recycling is a viable option. Even if the CPU is considered scrap or has surpassed its date of purchase, refiners are interested in the valuable metal components embedded within. By recycling, not only can you contribute to a more sustainable future, but you might also earn a few bucks in the process.

Environmental Impact of Discarding CPUs

Tossing electronic devices, including CPUs, into the trash might seem like the easy way out. However, many of these devices, especially older ones like cathode ray tubes, contain hazardous materials such as mercury, cadmium, and certain acids. When these materials end up in landfills, they can leach into the soil, posing significant threats to environmental and human health.

The Recycling Process

Recycling CPUs involves a series of steps. First, the CPU scrap is dismantled, separating the circuit board and other components. The processors are then treated with hydrochloric acid and nitric acid to dissolve the metal components. This process helps in extracting metals like gold, silver, and copper, which are commonly found in circuits.

It’s worth noting that while CPUs are a primary focus, other electronic devices and computer components, such as keyboards, also contain recyclable materials. By recycling, we reduce the demand for new raw materials, decrease the amount of toxic pollutants in our environment, and promote a healthier planet.

The Bigger Picture

Beyond CPUs, it’s essential to consider the broader scope of electronic waste. With the rapid advancement of technology, electronic devices become obsolete at an unprecedented rate. By recycling components like CPUs, we take a step towards a more sustainable future, reducing the strain on our planet’s resources and ensuring a safer environment for generations to come.

Why Recycle Your CPU?

Recycling your CPU, even if it’s damaged or outdated, is a responsible and eco-friendly choice. Beyond the environmental benefits, there’s a hidden treasure within these devices that many are unaware of. Let’s delve into the reasons why recycling your CPU is a smart move.

Extracting Precious Metals

CPUs, especially older models, often contain gold plates on their connectors. These gold plates, though small, can accumulate into a significant amount when hundreds or thousands of CPUs are recycled. Imagine having a bucket of gold salt extracted from these plates – it’s a valuable resource that would otherwise go to waste.

Preserving Ceramics and Other Materials

Beyond gold, CPUs also contain ceramics, which can be recycled and repurposed for various applications. By recycling, we ensure that these materials are reused, reducing the need to mine and process new raw materials.

Safe Disposal of Harmful Chemicals

Some CPU recycling processes involve the use of chemicals like cyanide to extract gold. By handing over your CPU to a professional recycling partner, you ensure that these chemicals are handled and disposed of safely, preventing environmental contamination.

Recycling Other Electronic Components

While CPUs are the brain of a computer, other components like monitors, especially CRTs (Cathode Ray Tubes), also contain recyclable materials. These monitors have connectors with smaller plates made of precious metals. Additionally, the negatively charged copper plate and steel plate inside CRTs can be extracted and repurposed.

Choosing the Right Recycling Partner

It’s essential to choose a reputable recycling partner who follows ethical and environmentally friendly practices. This ensures that your CPU and other electronic components are recycled efficiently, maximizing the extraction of valuable materials and minimizing environmental harm.

Recycling your CPU is not just about being environmentally responsible. It’s about tapping into the hidden value within these devices, from gold plates to ceramics, and ensuring that these resources are put to good use.

How does CPU Recycling Work?

Professional CPU recyclers collect CPUs from individuals, businesses, and electronic recycling centers. Then the CPUs are dismantled to access the recyclable metals. Proper CPU recycling can recover about 80% to 90% of precious metals.

After collecting the usable metals from the CPU, a sorting and separation process will be employed to prepare them for processing.

Subsequently, the sorted pieces are refined to remove impurities. Lastly, the reclaimed materials are sold to manufacturing industries to make new products.


Central processing units can be recycled to recover valuable metals and other materials from them. So if you have some damaged CPUs, don’t discard them in the trash. Instead, put them out for recycling.

Maria is a contributer to PC Guide, highly-interested in productivity and AI tools, and ensuring the inclusion of detailed product info and coverage across versus pieces.