Right before the pandemic, it was estimated that Americans generated 29.3 pounds of e-waste per person each year. Europe generates more than that at 35.7 pounds, but they also have a high recycling rate of 42.5%.
In the U.S., the EPA estimates that 1 million tons of e-waste were recycled in 2018, leading to an estimated recycling rate between 37% and 38%. Research also shows that only 17.4% of global e-waste is recycled correctly. When recycled improperly, e-waste can end up harming the environment and people.
The best way to ensure your company recycles correctly is by working with an ITAD and electronics recycling partner that believes in a circular economy. What does that mean and how do you find one?
Understanding the Circular Economy
A circular economy doesn’t have a beginning or end as you might expect. If you purchase a bag of rice, you use it all and it’s gone. With a circular economy, you buy an item, use it, recycle it, and the recycled materials are turned into something new for you to buy, use, recycle, and get turned into something new. It’s a continuous cycle of use and reuse.
Electronics are the ideal item for a circular economy. To make something like a cellphone, you have a metal or plastic case. There are metal computer components, wires, etc. Metals like iron, copper, lead, tin, silver, and aluminum may be mined from the earth and used in manufacturing to create the components needed for the circuit boards, motherboards, etc.
In 2019, the USGS estimated that about 1,100 tons of silver were recovered from recycled scrap metal. That was about 17% of the apparent consumption that year. By recycling, people help keep mines from reaching depletion. If the world runs out of the metals, ores, etc. that are used to build components, it could be devastating given our reliance on technology.
You also need minerals like silicon to make computer chips. Some of those components will be made from layers of plastics products or minerals like silicon. Screens are made of glass. Again, recycling these components helps protect the environment.
Stanford University reports that recycling one ton of plastic saves more than 5,770 Kwh/98 BTUs of energy, 16 barrels of oil, and 30 cubic yards of landfill space. That’s a lot of oil that could be used for more important applications.
Recycling glass saves 42 kWh/714,000 BTUs, 0.12 barrels of oil, and 2 cubic yards of landfill space. Plus, recycled glass stops 7.5 pounds of pollution from being released into the atmosphere. Not only does recycling help reduce energy consumption, but it also reduces the amount of pollution being released.
Recycling E-Waste May Be Mandated by Laws
Not every state mandates e-waste recycling, but many do. There are also federal laws regarding the disposal of hazardous materials. Computers, phones, televisions, and other electronic devices do contain materials that are classified as hazardous materials.
Twenty-five states have e-waste recycling legislation in place. California and Utah are the only two states that don’t use Producer Responsibility to pay for recycling costs. In California, consumers pay a fee when they purchase new electronic devices. That fee helps pay for recycling programs. Utah requires manufacturers to arrange mail-back programs or drop-off points for the collection of old electronics.
What are your state’s laws? You should focus on recycling business e-waste to help protect the environment and embrace a circular economy. It can also help you avoid costly fines. Retailer Target was hit with a $7.4 million fine for not following state e-waste recycling laws. The company’s employees threw thousands of items like batteries, CFL bulbs, and electronic devices into the trash.
The retailer isn’t the only one. DISH Network is paying $5.5 million for illegally disposing of equipment. Countless other brands have faced a similar fate, resulting not just in monetary penalties but long term reputation damage in the eyes of consumers.
Even smaller organizations can face substantial fines. You could be fined for improperly disposing of e-waste, but there’s another angle to consider. If your laptops, fax machines, printers, or other electronic devices contain a client’s financial information or medical records and you haven’t properly recycled them, you face lawsuits if the information is stolen. Your company’s reputation could also take a major hit.
How Does an ITAD & Electronics Recycling Partner Help?
The importance of hiring an ITAD company to assist with e-waste recycling is clear, but how does the partnership work? What does an ITAD and e-waste recycler do to help you?
ITAD stands for IT Asset Disposition. It’s a process in which your unwanted or broken electronic devices are collected, wiped of data, and recycled. If there is still life in the device, the data is wiped and the item is refurbished for reuse. If it’s no longer of any value, once the data is destroyed, the item goes into giant shredders that demolish them into smaller pieces. Those smaller pieces are recycled.
When you’re choosing an ITAD and recycling partner, you need to look for several criteria. First, make sure their recycling process includes the option for data destruction. When items are picked up in your place of business or shipped to the recycling facility, it needs to be done in a secure, traceable manner. You want real-time tracking information that allows you to see where items are.
If there is life left in your devices, you want to get as much value back as possible. The more recovered value there is from remarketing, the more money you save when upgrading to new equipment and recycling old equipment.
ERI is the nation’s largest ITAD and electronics recycling company. Our hardware destruction processes never stop considering the risks of cybersecurity, and we use Optech for real-time tracking. You see what stage of recycling your electronics are in at all times. You’ll have the option to watch the destruction in real-time, too, depending on your needs. Once the e-recycling process is over, you have the certificate of destruction for your records that prove you followed the laws.
Check the recycling firm’s certifications. There are a few that help ensure you’ve partnered with a company that isn’t going to ship your electronic devices overseas for processing. You’ll know that you’re choosing a facility that handles all recycling in the U.S. and follows federal and state laws. These are the certificates the electronics and ITAD companies should have.
- e-Stewards: The e-Stewards Initiative focuses on responsible recycling of e-waste to prevent pollution in the ground and water in communities around the world. To get the e-Stewards certification, the company must follow all local and federal laws, as well as the rules set forth by the Basel Convention. They also must treat workers fairly and never rely on prison or child labor, and they must be transparent in how and where the waste they process is handled and processed.
- NAID Certified: The National Association for Information Destruction (NAID) only certifies companies that follow strict data destruction rules set forth by the agency. The certificate also requires strict training practices and security measures in all recycling facilities holding the certification.
- R2: The R2 Standard is given to facilities that follow strict criteria in e-waste recycling. It covers protecting the environment, the safety and health of workers, the safety and health of the surrounding communities, and maintaining the circular economy.
With our ITAD services, you lower the risk of lawsuits and fines. It’s the best reason to hire a partner in e-waste recycling. Call us to learn more.