Consider the number of electronic devices each employee in your business owns. At a bare minimum, your workers likely have a smartphone, a modem and router, a desktop or laptop computer, tablet, headset, and multi-function printer. Plus, you have lightbulbs and fixtures, radios or smart speakers, and copiers. You may even have TVs, tablets, microwave ovens, cash registers, coffee machines, and security cameras.
Now, consider the lifespan of these electronics. Under everyday use, devices don’t last more than a few years on average. A flat-screen monitor has the best average lifespan at around 13 years. The lifespan of a smartphone is about 2 years. Most electronics fall in the range of 4 to 10 years. Businesses can go through electronics even faster due to excessive use. Every few years, you’ll be replacing older electronics. What do you do with the unnecessary equipment?
What E-Waste Is
What is e-waste? E-waste is the shortened term for electronic waste. When a laptop, printer, or other electronic device has reached the end of its life or is no longer needed, it must be disposed of. In the past, people threw these items into the trash without a second thought. The metal components seep into the soil and groundwater, where the heavy metals cause tremendous contamination.
It can be alarming when you look at a list of the metals and materials found within computers, smartphones, printers, and many others. Some of the more common materials include arsenic, barium, cadmium, lead, lithium, and mercury. There are also precious metals like copper, gold, and silver.
Instead of throwing your unneeded business electronics away, they’re recycled. E-waste recyclers assess each item, retrieve any parts that still have life, and destroy the rest to be recycled. Metal can be melted down and turned into new metal items. The same happens with glass and plastic. Instead of manufacturing and mining new raw materials, companies reuse materials to make new products.
The best way to recycle business recyclables responsibly is by understanding the laws that apply to your company and the best processes for recycling. Our guide to business electronics recycling helps you know exactly what to do.
Check Local and Federal Laws and How They Apply to Your Company
Only half of the states in the U.S. have regulations regarding e-waste. That doesn’t eliminate you from being responsible. If your company handles confidential information, you must follow federal laws that ensure the proper destruction of client or customer information. There are also federal rules regarding the disposal of cathode ray tubes. You cannot just throw them away.
The Federal Trade Commission established the Disposal Rule to protect consumers from fraud and identity theft. Companies involved in consumer reporting, banking, insurance, government agencies, lending/mortgages, automotive sales, debt collection, law, leases, etc., must follow the Disposal Rule. If you store information that could lead to identity theft and fraud, you must secure it.
This rule requires any company that handles confidential information to destroy electronic files or media so that there is no chance of restoring that information. Restrictions like these also apply to the healthcare industry. Private health information cannot be accessible to anyone lacking proper HIPAA permissions. If your company falls into any of those categories, you must adequately destroy data before recycling anything.
Even if you don’t handle confidential information, it’s still best to protect your customers and clients. You wouldn’t want their contact information being leaked to someone. It could jeopardize your company’s reputation. It’s always best to responsibly recycle electronics and use a company that destroys data on laptops, phones, and other electronics.
Learn more about laws that apply to your company by checking the federal website’s guide. The NCSL’s Data Security Laws look at laws applicable to private sector businesses in each state.
How Are Electronics Recycled?
When an electronic item is recycled, it goes to a facility for recycling. They’re assessed to see if there is still any life left. If so, the data is wiped, and items can be refurbished for resale or donation. Parts that are still viable can be removed and sold for parts.
Data is destroyed to prevent reuse if the electronic is genuinely at the end of its lifecycle. Data destruction isn’t simply a matter of a factory reset. You have to use programs that entirely overwrite the data following the standards required for the business. Government agencies with top-secret materials require a different protocol than a store that processes shoppers’ credit cards.
Once the data is destroyed, items go into giant shredders that break the items into small pieces. Metals, plastics, and glass are separated. After going into shredders, a company uses magnets to extract the metal shards and chopped up wiring. Plastics from the electronics float in water while glass pieces sink. That can make it easy to separate these components into bins where they’re sent to plants to be melted down to materials that manufacturers can use to create new items.
What Recycling Options Are Available?
Most companies have a few options for recycling their business electronics. Some are more convenient than others, so you should consider the possibilities.
#1 – On-Site Pick-Up: You can arrange to have an e-waste recycler come to your business to pick up electronics for data destruction and recycling. The benefit of this is that data destruction can occur at your place of business. You’ll have proof the data is destroyed before items leave your building. You’ll have live tracking information, so you always know where your electronics are.
#2 – Prepaid Recycling Boxes: You could order a box to fill and ship it to the e-recycler. Containers range in size from small to half pallets for many office electronics. A small box may hold a few devices, but a half pallet can hold almost 400 pounds. This can be a convenient method as tracking is included, but data is destroyed at the facility, so you’ll want to ask how you’ll know what stage of recycling your items are currently in.
#3 – Bring It to Your Local Facility – Gather the electronics and bring them to your local recycling facility. Driving boxes of unnecessary electronics to a facility can be time-consuming and inconvenient if the hours are limited. If your company brings items to a local facility, you may need to pay a fee for disposing of dozens of electronics at once. After you drop them off, you need to find out where they go. You may not have the same level of transparency.
How Do You Pick an E-Recycling Specialist?
Carefully choose your e-waste recycler. Ask if the company is certified. This offers protection against selecting a company that ships waste to a less-developed nation where the components could end up in a landfill or body of water. It also ensures that data is destroyed following government protocol.
ERI holds certification from e-Stewards, NAID, and R2. What does this mean for you? NAID certification states that the data is destroyed before the electronics are shredded and recycled. With R2, you know that electronics are recycled in the U.S. and never shipped overseas.
Both R2 and E-Stewards certification ensures that e-waste recycling is completed following local and international laws and always meets the best practices. The audits and certification process ensures your business electronics are recycled correctly and responsibly. Responsibility is everything when it comes to e-waste recycling for businesses.
Let ERI help you with your business electronic recycling. Whether you want us to come to you, or you’d like to ship your unused devices to us. We’re excited to recycle electronics in a way that protects both your company and the environment.