Companies should be more vigilant about tracking where old hardware eventually ends up, according to the Environment Agency and Computer Aid
The UK Environment Agency has called on companies to ask tougher questions of companies that specialise in IT equipment disposal to ensure that retired hardware does not end up in the waste stream or get shipped abroad for illegal dumping.
According to a statement released this week, the agency has several major on-going investigations into illegal export of waste IT according to EA advisor Adrian Harding. He urged companies to be more vigilant about questioning their IT disposal provider on where the waste will eventually end-up.
“We can’t check every container”
“Public bodies and businesses need to be far more questioning and suspicious about the contractors they use. It’s not feasible for us to check every single container that leaves the UK so a big part of the solution to illegal export of waste electrical equipment lies in every organisation taking greater interest in what is happening to their used equipment,” he said.
Companies shouldn’t just rely on assurances from disposal companies but ask for the process to be audited with proof of where the kit will eventually go, said Harding. “There are plenty of commercial and not for profit organisations that can deal with IT equipment legally and responsibly. Using these gives you peace of mind and helps to turn off the supply to the organised criminals involved in the illegal export of waste,” he said.
Harding made the comments on the release of a guide on safe hardware disposal drafted by IT charity Computer Aid International which refurbishes technology from UK companies for distribution to schools and other deserving recipients in emerging economies.
Tonnes of IT waste is dumped abroad
Tony Roberts, chief executive and founder of Computer Aid, said that despite the introduction of laws to control the disposal of waste IT such as the Waste Electrical and Electronics (WEEE) Directive, thousands of containers of e-waste are still being dumped in developing countries.
“UK companies are unwittingly handing over their unwanted IT equipment to unscrupulous illegal traders who are shipping untested and un-wiped e-waste, for profit, to developing countries,” said Roberts. “Companies can easily help put a stop to this toxic trade by asking some simple questions of IT disposal organisations to guarantee they select a reputable partner. In doing so, they can protect their brand reputation and guarantee legal compliance with environmental and data protection legislation.”
The Computer Aid Guide, Your Guide to Choosing an IT Disposal Partner, can be downloaded from the charity’s website.
Computer Aid, the Environment Agency and other organisations discussed a new standard which could ensure old computers are put to good use instead of being crushed and recycled at a round-table event in London late last year. “The standard has been drafted and is due to come out in 2010 – when it will provide a level playing field and help build a market by reassuring users, said Harding at the time. “If you achieve that standard then we’re all going to accept that is good quality, perfectly usable equipment that comes with a decent life, that’s safe.”
In November 2009, The Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) announced that it has updated the UK’s Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment laws to help improve the amount of old technology hardware which is recycled and kept out of landfill.
Computer Aid says it has professionally refurbished over 150,000 PCs for use in schools, hospitals and community projects in more than 100 countries. The charity is an Authorised Approved Treatment Facility, licensed by the Environment Agency to handle equipment under the UK’s Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) laws. “Every PC refurbished by Computer Aid will go on to provide at least 6000 hours of computer access, which is enough time to train 60 children to a vocational level of IT literacy,” said Roberts.