What To Do With Old Circuit Boards? (Here's What You Can Do)

Jennifer Eggerton
by Jennifer Eggerton

Circuit boards are used for every piece of technology that is part of our daily lives. You will find circuit boards in everything from desktop computers and laptops to cell phones and surround sound systems. Because technology evolves so quickly, we often end up with a stockpile of devices with old circuit boards.

Check with your local sanitation department or recycling center to learn how to dispose of old circuit boards. Sell old circuit boards online, or donate them to a vocational training organization. Make jewelry, notebook and journal covers, desk clocks, guitar picks, stands for your devices, stationary holders, key holders, and frames.

Here are some ideas for what to do with old circuit boards.

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What are Old Circuit Boards Made Of?

Old circuit boards are made with up to 50 layers of materials. Old circuit boards for consumer applications only have one or two layers of copper.

The majority of an old circuit board is made with a laminated composite that does not conduct electricity. This is the green translucent material that you see. Copper circuits are buried in the composite or laid on the surface. Old circuit boards also have a variety of transistors, resistors, inductors, capacitors, and diodes that are soldered onto the board.

Do Circuit Boards Contain Hazardous Waste?

Unfortunately, old circuit boards, on the whole, are considered hazardous waste. The boards are made with flame retardant, brominates, lead solder, and other metals that are bad for the environment. As such, old circuit boards should not be put into a landfill (i.e., your trash bin).

Some of the materials in an old circuit board can be recycled, but those materials need to be extracted from the board first. Look for companies that accept old circuit boards. They will take care of the disassembly, disposal, and recycling.

Are Old Circuit Boards Worth Money?

Old circuit boards are worth some money. You won’t make a fortune unless you have a room filled with circuit boards. It is good, though, to pass on old circuit boards for reuse. On average, an old circuit board brings in $1 to $5. If you can extract gold from the circuit board, it may be worth $5 to $10.

How to Dispose of Old Circuit Boards

The best way to dispose of old circuit boards is to work with your local recycling center or sanitation department. They will explain the steps to take to get rid of the boards. Also, check with local computer businesses to see if they have any use for old circuit boards.

Can Old Circuit Boards Be Repurposed?

Old circuit boards can be repurposed. Considering the time it takes to disassembly the board or find a recycling center, DIY projects are time savers.

How to Cut Old Circuit Boards

For any DIY project, you need to know how to properly cut old circuit boards. The best tools for the job are a Dremel or circular saw. If you don’t have these two power tools, you can use a paper cutter or X-Acto knife. The blades should be very sharp to cut through the resin board.

Cutting an old circuit board with an X-Acto knife takes time. You’ll need to run the blade along a ruler several times on both sides of the board. You don’t want to try to cut through the old circuit board. Just cut into enough for it to snap apart.

Expect the resin to be sharp along the cut line. Use a fine-grit sandpaper to smooth out the edges. Move your finger left, right, up, and down to find sharp areas that need attention. Also check along the cut line on the top and bottom surfaces of the old circuit board.

8 Awesome DIY Projects for Old Circuit Boards

After your cut and prep your old circuit boards, you can spend time getting creative. For these projects, you’ll need some strong glue and few other tools.

1. Jewelry

Make earrings, pendants, and bracelets from old circuit boards. Get the clasps, earring loops and studs, and other jewelry parts at your local hobby shop.

Use a jigsaw to cut shapes from the old circuit board. Attach earring loops or studs to the pieces with a strong glue. For pendants and bracelets, drill a small hole in the circuit board. You can make charm bracelets or connect the pieces with jewelry cord.

2. Notebook or Journal Cover

Making a notebook or journal cover is one of the easiest DIY projects for old circuit boards. Old circuit boards work best for smaller journals, such as 3.75” x 6.75” or smaller. Take the old circuit board with you to shop for a journal notebook to make sure of the sizing.

Cut the old circuit board to the same size as the cover of your journal. Apply a thin layer of strong glue over the entire backside of the circuit board. Press it against the cover, making sure to work out any bubbles.

3. Desk Clock

You can find clock kits at your local hobby store. Drill a hole in the center of the old circuit board. Install the clock on the board according to the kit instructions.

4. Guitar Picks

Any flat part of an old circuit board works for making guitar picks. Trace the shape of a guitar pick onto the board in the flat areas. Use a jigsaw to cut out the picks, and sand the edges with a fine-grit sandpaper.

5. Tablet or Phone Stand

Materials for this project include strong glue, a chip from the circuit board, and a door hinge. Cut two pieces of the old circuit board to a size that is lightly smaller than your device. You can cut one piece to include a chip, or remove the chip from another part of the board.

Glue the short of one circuit board to the leaf of the hinge (the flat part). Glue the other leaf of the hinge to the bottom circuit board about 2/3 of the way from the bottom. Attach the old chip to the base in front of the hinge.

Set your smart device on the stand, and adjust the angle with the hinge.

6. Stationary Holder

Make a stationary holder from 5 pieces of an old circuit board. The two pieces for the side should be the same size. Cut the front piece shorter than the back piece. Form an open box with the 4 pieces, and attach them with strong glue. Set the box on another part of the circuit board, and trace around it. This is the base of your stationary box. Cut out the piece, and attach it to the bottom of the box with strong glue.

7. Key Holder

A key holder is another quick and easy DIY project for old circuit boards. Buy some hooks from your local hardware store. The hooks should have a flat end to attach to the board. Mount the hooks in a line along the bottom of the circuit board with strong glue.

8. Frame

Old circuit boards add style to your photos. Cut the boards into strips to fit around the photo. Use strong glue to put the pieces together as a frame. For the back of the frame, attach a piece of poster board, cardboard or card stock. Cut an opening large enough to fit the photo. Attach metal tabs to close the back of the frame, as well as mounting hardware to hang the picture.

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Related Questions

Can you use old circuit boards to make electronic gadgets?

Yes. Old circuit boards that still work can be used for robots, stereo amplifiers, flying machines, and even WiFi radios.

Conclusion

With so much focus on protecting the environment, old circuit boards offer new opportunities to reduce waste. The boards contain materials that are hazardous, so they shouldn’t be tossed in the trash bin. Whether you make a little money or use them for DIY projects, your old circuit boards still have some value.

Jennifer Eggerton
Jennifer Eggerton

Jennifer L. Eggerton loves being hands-on, whether it's with a home DIY project, making repairs, re-decorating a room, or keeping life organized. She enjoys helping people by sharing her knowledge, insights, and experiences, as well as her lessons learned. In addition to her work as a writer, Jennifer is a JeepĀ® overlander, self-published author, and nature photographer who loves being outdoors.

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