As students are heading back to school, now is one of the prime times of year to think about upgrading old technology. Whether you’re getting a new phone, tablet, laptop, or desktop computer for your favorite scholar, chances are you’ll be left with an electronic device you no longer need.

What happens to those electronic devices? Many sit in drawers or closets for so long that they become obsolete. Worse yet, others are sent to landfills, where their chemicals can leach into the land and pollute the air.

There is a better alternative. Consider responsibly disposing of your computer or electronic device. (Need help finding a spot near you? Visit Recycling is good, but reusing is even better. When you choose a place that recycles by refurbishing computers, you could help someone going back to school get access to technology that’s desperately needed.

InterConnection, a nonprofit in Seattle that refurbishes computers and makes them available to under-served communities around the world, says that with donations, the average cost of setting up a computer lab in a school, library, or community center is cut by 70 percent.

Technology as a teaching tool

Access to technology can make a big difference for schoolchildren. Photo: / Lucélia Ribeiro

While the digital divide in the U.S. is shrinking — those with access to the Internet vs. those without — there are still many students who don’t have a computer at home to complete assignments, do research, and type up papers. Technology’s academic powers can’t be underestimated — a report from the Alliance for Excellent Education and the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education (SCOPE) found that technology, when implemented properly, is capable of producing significant gains in student achievement and boosting engagement, particularly among students most at risk.

When donating computers, InterConnection focuses on four key areas, including low-income families and students, nonprofit organizations, and schools and libraries. That means your old computer is very likely to directly help a student who needs it. The organization also powers ConnectAll, a membership program that helps reuse-and-recycling-based social enterprises get started so that they can bring technology access to under-served communities. Through ConnectAll, nonprofits and low-income individuals can purchase desktops, laptops, and peripheral equipment (such as mouses and keyboards) at an affordable price.

Do your part

If you’d like to donate a computer, InterConnection makes it as easy as possible by offering a range of convenient options, from taking your computer to a drop-off location near you, mailing in your laptop or smartphone, or scheduling a pick-up. The organization asks that computers be less than seven years old and capable of booting up. If you’re worried about the data, rest assured that InterConnection is an R2 certified recycler, which means data security is a top priority and they don’t export waste to other countries.

Your computer may be old to you, but with a few tweaks, it could be just the thing to help a student go back to school with the tools needed to succeed.

Featured image credit: Federico Feroldi / Flickr

Editor’s Note: Earth911 partners with many industries, manufacturers and organizations to support its Recycling Directory, the largest in the nation, which is provided to consumers at no cost. InterConnection is one of these partners.

By Haley Shapley

Haley Shapley is based in Seattle, where recycling is just as cool as Macklemore, walking in the rain without an umbrella, and eating locally sourced food. She writes for a wide range of publications, covering everything from sustainability to fitness to travel. Read more of her work here.