Recycle: Reducing the Footprint Left by Technology

It’s difficult to imagine our lives without technology… computers, cell phones, fax machines, you name it – we want it. Businesses and individuals alike have a desire for the latest and greatest, what will make things easier, or what will improve efficiency and return on investment. This mentality however, does not come without consequence, and has certainly left its mark on the earth.

The world is currently generating between twenty to fifty million metric tons of electronic waste each year. So, during your hour lunch break we managed to dispose of roughly 2300 metric tons of electronic waste. This is something that we should all be conscious of, and given that you are reading this article, means that you probably have access to some sort of electronic device that you will sooner or later dispose of.

Several of the worlds leading manufacturers of this equipment have recently stepped up to either provide services for safer disposal, or have committed to ridding their products of some of their most harmful waste. HP, Dell, LGE, Sony, Nokia, Samsung, and Sony Ericsson have already promised to remove the worst toxic chemicals from their products (BFRs and PVC) by 2009. But what about all of that equipment that is already in circulation? What about all of the computers and cell phones that hit end of life before then?

Recycling Computers and ElectronicsDepending on what your needs may be, here is one possible solution. Dell has recently started a program that will assist both consumers and businesses to dispose of unwanted electronic equipment in a much better way. For businesses, this process is known as Asset Recovery and basically removes all liability from the business should information from old equipment be compromised. If your business is not currently practicing some type of Asset Recovery plan, you are running a significant risk. Not only does Asset Recovery remove the liability from data loss, but it also protects against fines for illegal disposal of such equipment. For personal use, they have also implemented a donation program that takes used computers and donates them to the National Cristina Foundation to help disabled and economically disadvantaged children and adults in your community. They will even come to your door and pick it up. It doesn’t get much easier than that.

Whether it be for business or personal use, you can now include the disposal of a computer you are purchasing as you are actually purchasing it. So, if you are buying a new PC, make sure to look for this option.

Staples is also working on a computer recycling program that started in May of 2007:

Staples said its program will ship the devices for domestic recycling by Vestal, N.Y.-based Amandi Services, which Staples calls “one of the country’s most experienced and innovative electronics recyclers.” Amandi complies with federal standards for electronics recycling and will take steps to ensure personal data stored on old computers aren’t compromised, Staples says.

Green Fed II was created by the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality to provide students the ability to send electronics for recycling or reuse with no charge.

The program allows private citizens to print off a pre-paid UPS sticker and send away any electronic item by dropping it off at a UPS store. So far over 1,000 tons have been recycled in one year, but the program does not offer a drop-off location so it has been met with some criticism from those who say it is too difficult.

Other E-cycling Resources

United States Environmental Protection Agency Computers & General Electronics

Computer Recycling Center

Share the Technology

Electronic Industries Alliance

Product Stewardship Institute

National Recycling Coalition

Toxic E-Trash: E-cycling Resource Map (from the PBS series Now with Bill Moyers)

All in all, we have a long way to go… but the more people who are aware, and do something about it… well, the closer we’ll be.

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