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Counties see rush of electronics recycling after holiday

Posted December 28, 2016

— Similar to the post-Christmas rush at stores to exchange items, the Wake County landfill saw a surge of traffic this week as people dropped off old televisions, computers and other electronic items for recycling.

Although legislators tried to roll it back last summer, state law prohibits throwing equipment containing lead or precious metals into landfills, so counties run recycling programs for residents.

"(We had) two old printers that no longer work and an old adding machine that doesn’t work," Bill Shanton of Apex said Wednesday at the South Wake Landfill.

The computers are kept in a padlocked storage locker at the landfill to prevent theft before being taken to a recycling facility that removes and shreds the hard drives using the same technology as the Department of Defense.

Still, security experts recommend that people looking to recycle or sell old computers clear their own hard drives first.

"All of that information is still there, easily accessible by anyone, even thieves," computer forensics expert Richard Hickman said.

An NBC News investigation found dozens of used cellphones and laptops for sale online that had supposedly been wiped clean, but experts were able to recover Social Security numbers, banking information and tax records from them.

"We wiped out the hard drives," Cary resident Bill Eddington said as he dropped an old desktop computer off at the landfill for recycling. "That was the main thing, just get any old data off the computer."

Shanton said he smashed the hard drives on two laptop computers before recycling them.

Data can be scrubbed off old cellphones by using a factory reset on the devices, according to experts.

Wake County spends about $1 million a year on the electronics recycling program, which also accepts small appliances, vacuum cleaners and printers – practically anything with a cord and a plug, according to officials.

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