They were too old, slow, and broken to be reused by even the poorest person. Better laptops than my two old guys get regularly thrown or given away for free. Not even the upgrade parts which I add to them are useful anymore. I seem to have to add more RAM to every computer I buy, those were no exception, but old RAM doesn't fit new computers, and so it has to go, too.
I investigated may ways. Bringing them to an Umsonstladen (shop without money, to donate things to people in need). Giving them to Labdoo to help children in the third world. Putting up a free auction or ad on ebay. Bringing them to a refurbishing shop. But nothing would change, that the two laptops are just too broken to be used and too old for the components to be used. Anybody who needs an old laptop can probably get a better one for free.
So I checked at Berlin's public garbage company and indeed, they take on all electronics "for recycling". I imagined that maybe the devices are shipped back to China where some underpaid children disassemble them and all the little parts and materials go to an appropriate facility that needs them.
But reality is a bit different:
I went to the BSR Recycling point and all there was were huge containers, including one with all kinds of different electronics, as you can see on the picture with my good old friends sitting in between. Only cell phones were separated and went into a large bin. I asked what'll happen to the container and the facility employee just said: "It's all gonna be shredded and to rediscover the base metals." Ah, *sigh*. In that case, I could have spared all the effort of erasing my data. Taking out the hard drive and throwing it out from the highest floor of the house, before taking it to "recycling" would have been enough.
Well, in any case, both computers served me well. They really had to work a long time with daily use and lots of typing until some keys had already started failing. If this is the best way for them to die, let it be. They have earned their final rest.
As for all my research into data cleaning and how to give laptops away for free, maybe it helps one of my readers or it'll help me in case that my next computers won't serve me until their death.