You probably still remember the three R’s that you learned in school: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle! While that motto is quite old, it’s components are necessary now more than ever. According to Frontier Group — a group that provides analysis and information to citizens for living cleaner and healthier — the U.S. produces more than 30 percent of the planet’s total waste, though it is home to just 4 percent of the world’s total population. They also cite a study from Columbia University which shows that Americans throw out 7 pounds of material per person PER DAY. The National Conference of State Legislatures reports that Americans own approximately 24 electronic items per household. Hundreds of millions of tons of trash is thrown out every year, and it’s top contributors include homes, businesses and institutions (like universities and libraries).
PBS states that dead electronics make up the world’s fastest-growing source of waste, and that the U.S. produces more e-waste (electronic waste) than any other country in the world. The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity promotes a program that aims to specifically help business to reduce their waste. This program reminds us that there are both environmental and business reasons for seeking reduction of waste. In Illinois alone, for example, about half of the state’s waste is generated by and disposed of by businesses. That’s a massive responsibility!
Why Reduce E-Waste?
Not only is it important to reduce waste for environmental reasons, such as conserving our earth’s natural resources and reducing emissions, but also for maintaining sustainability as a business. Recycling for businesses helps to reduce cost, increase operating efficiency, and demonstrate environmental governance. We must remember that recycling does produce a cost, but limiting the amount waste disposed also saves cost.
As we know, recycling and reuse greatly benefits the environment. With an overwhelming amount of greenhouse emissions and companies exporting their products to foreign countries, we are wreaking havoc on the environment. Heavy metals such as lead and cadmium and other toxic chemicals are infiltrating our resources — on a global scale. Electronic products that contain toxic chemicals are being sent to landfills here in the United States, and being shipped to foreign countries who aren’t disposing of them properly either.
Did you know that according to a PBS documentary that the United States is the only industrialized country in the world that hasn’t ratified the Basel Convention? This is an international treaty that was created to prevent industrialized nations from dumping their waste on poorer countries. As a country that produces so much waste, we should in fact, then, have the greatest responsibility for what we are consuming and how we dispose of it. Waste impacts everything — from oceans and streams, to our drinking water, the food we grow and eat, and the air we breathe. I don’t think anyone can argue that we aren’t all individually impacted by these things.
What Are We Forgetting About?
Mobile devices, televisions, printers/faxes/scanners, and computers make up some of the more commonly recycled electronic items. For consumers, many of these items can be dropped off or sent to many retailers such as Best Buy or Staples and many manufactures such as Samsung, Dell, LG, Vizio, and Sony have programs or partnerships in place to help as well.
However when it comes to businesses recycling electronics, some electronic items that are more often forgotten about include specialized equipment (such as medical equipment in hospitals or POS equipment in retail), projectors, networking equipment, handheld scanners, and office phones. All of these items contain toxic elements if they were sent to a landfill, and equally importantly all of these items can and often do contain sensitive data that must be properly destroyed.
ERI offers recycling kits in a mail-back program comprised of flat-rate boxes that comes in several different sizes for your recycled items. These kits are available for technology only (electronics and IT assets), batteries and lamps. Once you fill your box with your recyclable items, you can work with UPS for it to be returned to ERI’s recycling facility. Or you can of course contact ERI to request a quote if you have more electronics to recycle than will fit in a box, and our team will custom develop a solution based on your needs.
Options For Recycling Electronics
Find a local waste agency or association that can provide you additional resources based on your location. The Environmental Protection Agency also offers an abundance of information on their website, among which you can find a link to help you locate electronic recycling resources near you. This tells you specifically where you can donate or recycle your electronics. If possible, you can also utilize Certified Electronic Recyclers; the link provides a map for your convenience. ERI has eight certified facilities itself in the United States, all of which are R2 and e-Stewards certified.
What To Consider For Your Business
You want your business to run efficiently, and in order to help it run more efficiently there are some things to consider. Know your waste stream, know the services and markets that are available, consider the costs and savings, and reach out to relevant key contacts. For example, purchasing in bulk, or products that have reduced or reusable packaging. You may even be able to donate or repurpose working equipment, and ERI can help with that too.
As you evaluate and establish waste reduction programs for your business, consider investigating composting, sourcing reduction and reuse, and green procurement, which is purchasing items that have a minimal adverse environmental impact. No matter what you decide to do, choose wisely how you dispose of your products and do your research. When electronic products that contain toxic chemicals are not safely handled, they can pose a threat to human and environmental health. You can do your part by trying to select companies who are disposing of products, and specifically electronics, responsibly.