Just how important is adequate recycling of electronic waste?
Well, according to the Environmental Audit Committee, very. The UK produces a whopping 24.9kg of e-waste per person (which is 10kg more than the European average) meaning we have an awful lot to dispose of. And, of the 44.7mllion tonnes of electric waste that was produced globally in 2017, 90% of it was discarded insufficiently (landfill, illegal trading, incineration). In short, the globe’s electronic recycling process needs work.
It’s true, recycling your electronics may feel like a daunting task. There’s no e-waste recycling bin on the drive to make things easy for us, but it’s imperative that we deal with e-waste in the right way in terms of both security and environmental protection.
- Why is there so much e-waste?
- Why recycle e-waste?
- How do we recycle e-waste safely?
- The electronic recycling process
What is e-waste?
Electronic waste or e-waste is excess waste that we generate from surplus and obsolete electronic devices. Electronics, from mobile phones to laptops right the way to washing machines and fridges contain various toxic and hazardous components (including lead, mercury, PVC plastic and brominated flame retardants). When disposed of incorrectly, these toxic materials can be released into the environment and harm human and animal life as well as the environment.
Why is there so much e-waste?
Technology is everywhere. Even the items that were previously wind up or analogue now have tech embedded into them. What’s more, the lifespan of devices is getting so much shorter. Gone are the days when your watch would last you 10 years, now you’re advised to get an upgrade every 12 months, that’s how quickly tech is advancing. Companies deliberately plan this by upgrading software and discontinuing support for older models, particularly in relation to phones, laptops and tablets. And, the ubiquity of tech means that prices are dropping, so that people are more connected than ever before. The downside to all this connectivity is that we have unprecedented amounts of e-waste.
Why recycle e-waste?
The majority of electronic devices end up in landfill and a shockingly low number are recycled. Electronics are full of valuable minerals including tin, copper, gold and silver. In fact, Apple recently revealed that it recovered a massive 2,204 pounds of gold from recycled Apple products and according to the United States Environment Protection Agency, a million cell phones can recover up to 75 pounds of gold, 772 pounds of silver and 35,274 pounds of copper.
But the benefits go much further than merely financial. When we recycle our e-waste, we reduce landfill, recover vital natural minerals and even provide jobs.
We’re already facing huge shortages of vital natural minerals. Materials that are used in smartphones and LED TVs that simply can’t be replaced. By recycling older and obsolete devices, we have the chance of protecting some of these minerals.
Plus, recycling e-waste limits the waste produced when creating new products. According to research, 81% of the energy associated with a computer is created during the manufacturing process, not during the years of usage afterwards.
How do we recycle e-waste safely?
So, exactly how do we recycle safely? The easiest option for individuals is probably to return them to the manufacturer they got them from, with mobile phones and laptops this is relatively easy (see the financial benefits to manufacturers outlined in the paragraph above!), you could also donate to family or friends or you could sell. But, if you’re a business or an individual with a large amount of e-waste that you’d like to recycle, then the simplest option is to go to a certified e-waste recycler. Not only will the right business recycle your products in the safest way, but they’ll also ensure that no sensitive or confidential data can be accessed once it leaves your ownership. Look out for recycling and refurbishment initiatives that are in line with government standards and offer a complete process like the one outlined below.
The electronic recycling process:
After everything you’ve read, you may think the recycling process will be overwhelming, but with a dedicated recycling and disposal firm, it couldn’t be simpler. We’ve outlined the process that we take here at CDL, so you can see how this could work for your business.
Step one: Collection
If you’re an ever-expanding business with a growing mountain of electronic waste that will need to be disposed of, the last thing you want to do is hire a truck to transport your waste to a recycling plant but, with the right collection services, you won’t need to.
At CDL, we have a fleet of advanced and modern vehicles that feature GPS and CCTV. The drivers are all security-vetted and will arrive at a pre-confirmed time and date that suits you. What’s more, they’ll provide transportation across the entirety of mainland UK.
Once your waste has been collected, you’ll receive an electronic notification from a secure system which provides an in-depth summary of the collection as well as the relevant documentation you’ll need to prove that your waste has been collected. All you have to do is assemble your waste (loose, caged or palletised) and store it safely and securely to safeguard your data and preserve any residual value. CDL can provide storage containers and cages if necessary.
And then, once collected, it will be safely transported to a secure recycling and processing facility.
There may be some companies that wish for sensitive information to be destroyed before it leaves their site. We understand this and also provide secure on-site destruction so that sensitive material never needs to leave the site.
Step two: Processing
Once returned to the secure facility, your outmoded equipment will be split into hazardous and non-hazardous and data barring and non-data barring materials. Your e-waste will be designated to a specific engineer who will see to it that your equipment is logged via model, serial number, unique asset number, customer asset number and specification, these details will be uploaded into a customer asset report which you will be provided with.
Step three: IT recycling
When disposing of IT equipment, you’ll want to know that the destruction and recycling processes are secure for complete peace of mind. The right recycling partner will ensure that all of your hard drives are data erased and/or shredded and that all data (sensitive or otherwise) will be sanitised and/or destroyed in line with the most stringent industry standards.
Step four: The final product
When you have equipment that can’t be remarketed, it will be stripped down into its constituent parts (plastic, metals, minerals etc.) and separated into various categories which can or can’t be reused or recycled. Any items that can’t effectively be dismantled will be shredded into tiny pieces during the process and hazardous dust will be extracted and discarded in a way that does not harm the environment. What’s left will be separated into metal, plastic and other materials and reused, recycled or disposed of in a safe way.
A large part of the complying to the UK waste hierarchy is ensuring that items that can be reused are reused and not just scrapped. This can often generate revenue which can either be used to offset retirement costs or be passed back as a positive return to you.
In most cases, we are able to provide an accurate expectation of any revenues likely to be realised prior to the collection.
If you do not have the facility or do not wish to receive a financial rebate, it can be passed to a charity of your choice or even traded in against equipment purchases including staff purchasing schemes all managed by CDL.
CDL is one of the UK’s leading IT disposal companies, working alongside big-name businesses in a range of industries. To find out how we could help your business, or for more of the latest tech news and advice, visit our homepage or call our team today on 0333 060 2846.