Gordon Burgoyne oversees Covanta’s electronics recycling business unit and has been in the precious metals and recycling industries for more than twenty years.
In our modern world, every business in every industry depends on electronic devices to function. PCs and laptops have become foundational tools for all employees, while equipment like printers, scanners, phones and displays are essential to operations.
Keeping that technology up to date is also critical if businesses want to maintain their competitive edge, making the replacement of out-of-date electronic devices on a regular basis a business imperative.
But businesses need a plan in place to dispose of electronic equipment effectively and safely once it reaches its end of life. Here’s what you need to know to manage your electronic waste responsibly.
Although phones, computers, monitors and related equipment make up a significant portion of electronic waste, “e-waste” as it’s also called, can come from almost any modern technological device. In a recent report, the United Nations found that electronic waste is one of the world’s fastest-growing waste streams, with the generation of e-waste expected to reach 74.7 megatons by 2030. If this electronic waste isn’t disposed of properly, materials like lead and mercury can leach into the soil and groundwater, making it hazardous to the environment and human health.
Businesses have a unique challenge when it comes to disposing of electronic waste. For them, the most common sources of e-waste include outdated PCs, servers and other data storage devices—items that are high-risk for a variety of reasons. If these devices aren’t disposed of properly, valuable business and consumer data could be accessible to anyone who recovers them. This makes the proper disposal of e-waste a cybersecurity issue as much as an environmental issue.
Not only do businesses need to protect their data, but they need to protect their bottom lines. Businesses that improperly dispose of e-waste run the risk of their old stock being recovered and illegally sold, expose themselves to civil and environmental lawsuits and invite penalizations from the state for a lack of compliance. Any of these happenings could impede business, or halt it entirely. What’s more, making unsavory headlines because of these possibilities can tarnish any brand and plant the seeds for far-reaching negative impacts.
The proper disposal of electronic waste is now also an essential part of meeting environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) goals. The progress that companies make in reducing their environmental impact is carefully scrutinized by stockholders, the board, employees, vendors and the communities where the businesses operate. Many customers won’t work with a company that has poor ESG performance, making it a business imperative that you do everything you can to improve your metrics.
Disposing of e-waste in a responsible, environmentally safe manner can be complicated if you’re not aware of the requirements and ramifications. Here are a few things to keep in mind when creating your e-waste disposal strategy:
To meet your ESG goals and keep your employees, community, and business safe, a proper electronic waste recycling strategy is a must. The right e-waste partner will have a dedicated facility, a transparent process and a track record of success, giving you the confidence to know that your waste is being properly destroyed and recycled.
For more on e-waste recycling, visit our solutions page.