Most firms break the rules,smash their e-trash and dump it with the bins
Despite rules requiring them to recycle computers and electronic equipment, the overwhelming majority of British organisations simply dump them with regular waste that goes to landfill, according to research.
Up to 95 percent of companies send their electronic waste (e-waste) to landfill rather than make arrangements for it to be collected, reused or recycled, according to a survey by recycling firm BusinessWaste. This is despite the potential value of that equipment to other users, the hazardous material it may contain, and increasingly strict regulations that require organisations to recycle their waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE).
WEEE shall not be moved?
“We’re seeing more and more electronic waste being inappropriately discarded,” said BusinessWaste.co.uk ‘s commercial director Mark Hall. The company surveyed 500 of its customers and prospects, and found that only five percent had any plans in place to dispose of IT equipment responsibly.
There is a rising tide of electronic trash, Hall said, pointing to the fact that even with a tiny minority passing their waste through waste management firms the amount they dispose of is increasing: “E-waste is currently the fastest growing type of waste that companies like ours handle”.
Companies are clearly ignorant and confused, he told TechWeekEurope. Unaware they are breaking the law, firms have been happy to tell Hall about plans to smash computers into small pieces and put them out with the bins.
They all give the same reason for taking this course of action: security. Scared that their data might fall into the wrong hands, companies prefer to physically destroy machines or else keep them “forever” in store rooms.
“Nervous bosses are worried that their data could fall into the wrong hands if it is sent for recycling,” said Mr Hall. “Scares over identity theft and corporate crime mean that they’d rather completely destroy computer goods themselves rather that hand it to a third party to be disposed of correctly.”
This is completely unececessary, Hall says, since a”two second Google search” can find how easy it is to wipe data to a good enough standard for most users. Despite this, users prefer to smash their systems: “We’ve stood by and watched as employees set about perfectly good but ageing equipment with hammers, and they shouldn’t have to waste these resources,” he said.
Responsible waste management firms can show certiificates as evidence they dispose of IT goods safely and securely. Many will also make efforts to see that qorkable equipment is re-used rather than destroyed for recycling. It takes nearly a quarter of a ton of fossil fuel, 48 pounds of chemicals, and a ton and a half of water to manufacture one computer and monitor, Hall says.
It’s not just a matter of meeting regulations either, as lives are at stake. Illegally dumped IT equipment often winds up in the slums of countries like Ghana (see picture) which act as toxic reprocessing plants, reclaiming valuable chemicals from the e-waste – at the cost of human lives.
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