Last week, we discussed the challenges companies face when they need to dispose of old electronics and servers in a responsible, compliant way. Compliance is a big deal when it comes to the business side of IT equipment disposal, since it directly affects a company’s bottom line.
Didn’t catch last week’s post? Click here to get up to speed on why compliance is important, and how your company can move toward that goal.
This week, however, we’re going to look into the issues of e-waste recycling compliance from a different lens—one that actually influences many of the regulations that have come into effect over the last several years: environmental risk and public health dangers.
Gone are the days of simply trashing everything we don’t want—and thank goodness for that. Environmental concerns are now a global focus, and recycling is a big part of creating a more sustainable world. But when it comes to old IT equipment, it can be a struggle to know what to do with the waste. So what are some of the questions that come up about environmental risk and IT equipment disposal?
What is classified as e-waste?
Any broken or unwanted electronic equipment is considered to be e-waste. This can include old computers, servers, hard drives, cameras, phones, and more.
Where does e-waste go?
One of the ongoing environmental concerns affecting the globe is the issue of non-biodegradable trash that simply sits in a landfill. E-waste is unique in that it is typically made up of a complex assortment of different components, none of which are safe to dump in the landfill.
Glass, plastic, and heavy metals, all useful resources that are typically thought of as recyclable, are often simply thrown into the landfill when part of an outdated, broken, or unwanted piece of technology. This technology does not break down over time, but takes up additional space and poses risks to human health.
Some companies even export their e-waste to poor countries, contaminating the environment in landfills, or being dismantled by hand under dangerous conditions. While some companies are held accountable for these actions, the waste continues to stack up and pose a threat to millions.
What environmental and health risks does e-waste pose?
Because e-waste contains a number of different components, there are many ways for unwanted products to pose a risk to the environment and public health. Heavy metals and plastics within the devices can leach into the soil, water supply, and air, causing environmental contamination.
These same metals and plastics can pose a threat to community health, as products found in e-waste have been linked to many different illnesses, kidney and brain damage, and many other serious conditions. Because the waste can contaminate water, air, and soil, these effects could be far-reaching over time.
In addition to the immediate environmental impact of e-waste, there is another consequence of throwing out usable materials. The demand for products only continues to grow, and materials are needed to construct these new electronics. If old products are simply thrown out, new resources must be harvested, using environmentally destructive processes like mining.
How does recycling help?
Recycling is currently the best and only compliant way to get rid of unwanted IT equipment. The equipment is broken down carefully to sort all the different components, which can then be used in new products instead of sent to the landfill.
This helps in a number of ways:
- Saves space
- Removes human health risks
- Cuts down on environmental impact
- Offsets the mining of natural resources
- Salvages useful components
What are some benefits for companies of recycling and being environmentally conscious?
If a police officer caught you littering, he or she might write you a ticket for a hundred dollars or so, for contaminating the environment and a public space. Companies are penalized as well for being non-compliant in the state and federal efforts to minimize e-waste, and the penalties are much, much stiffer than for individuals.
Not only can companies be forced to pay thousands in fines if caught dumping e-waste, but they can also be facing massive cleanup costs, depending on how much waste was disposed of improperly. Why take the risk? Preventing costly cleanup by using proper disposal methods is much cheaper in the long run.
Besides the immediate benefits of avoiding fines, companies can also use this environmental safety to their advantage in the form of company values and marketing. Many consumers are environmentally conscious, and want to support businesses that share these values. By showcasing a compliant, responsible, and “green” process for disposing of e-waste, companies have another way to connect with customers.
Finally, companies can salvage value by critically appraising their e-waste for salvageable components or even resale. While disposal does have costs associated with the process, it’s a lot cheaper in the long run to recycle e-waste, and it’s much better for the planet.
Is getting rid of e-waste difficult?
It’s getting easier all the time—and yet more complex to handle e-waste, what with constantly-evolving regulations and concerns. That’s why companies like ICT offer solutions for e-waste recycling in an environmentally conscious, compliant, and safe way, while maximizing value.
How can my company take steps to protect the environment against e-waste?
Fortunately, just becoming compliant with the relevant regulations is a big step. Recycling waste will help prevent the cycle of contamination from continuing. It can be difficult to come up with recycling solutions on your own, however. That’s where ICT comes in. We tailor a plan to suit your company’s unique needs and make sure you’re staying compliant. Fill out these forms to learn more!
Susannah Bruck is a freelance blogger, editor, and ghostwriter. She has been putting her skills to use for clients since 2010, and enjoys working on formats ranging from blog posts to short stories and plays. You can find her at World Adventures