Humans Produce 125,000 Jumbo Jets Worth of E-Waste Every Year

According to a January, 2019 report from Davos, the world now produces 44.7 million tons of electronic waste every year. That’s 125,000 Boeing 747 jumbo jets, or about 4,500 Eiffel towers. No matter how you measure it, that’s a lot of waste. Worse yet, the rate of e-waste production worldwide continues to rise, meaning this problem won’t go away soon.

If you’re trying to run a responsible business, this can cause you some problems, not least of which is the fact that you need to upgrade your equipment every few years, and the old stuff needs to be disposed of. Here’s everything you need to know about e-waste.

The Dangers of E-Waste

E-waste comes in many forms, including televisions, monitors, computers, printers, peripherals, audio and stereo equipment, DVD players, video cameras, telephones, fax machines, photocopiers, cell phones, routers and other wireless devices, and video game consoles. Basically, anything with a silicon circuit board can be considered electronic waste.

Our electronics contain a variety of heavy metals and other contaminants, like lead, mercury, cadmium, and barium. When electronics are improperly disposed, for example, if they’re crushed in a garbage truck and dumped in a landfill, these contaminants won’t be properly contained, and can leach into the environment.

When this happens, the whole environment and community suffers. Animals can die or be born with birth defects. Plants and crops can be killed off. Groundwater can become contaminated. Mercury and cadmium can kill people in all kinds of nasty ways, or cause them to have kids with birth defects.

Not only is improper e-waste disposal unethical, it’s also illegal. If your business improperly disposes e-waste, even by accident, you can be fined by the state or federal government. Federal fines can be as high as $25,000 per violation.

That means that if you have an intern clear out an old supply closet and they throw 20 Windows 95-era laptops in the trash, your business could end up getting fined $500,000. That’s an expensive mistake!

How Recycling Works

Besides the contaminants, there are valuable metals in household and office electronics. Gold, silver and copper can all be worth salvaging. How this is done depends on the recycling service.

Some domestic services specialize in recycling e-waste. Most of them work for charity, or are startups trying to find a more efficient way of extracting precious metals. Ironically, it currently costs about as much to extract gold and silver from circuit boards in the US as the metal itself is worth, so accepting free electronics isn’t a profitable business model – at best, it’s a break-even proposition.

Other, less reputable services are based in developing countries, usually in Africa. Because labor costs and the cost of living are so low in these countries, companies can recycle electronics for a tidy profit. Unfortunately, these businesses have no safety standards, and some of them employ children to burn circuit boards in open pits, exposing them to all kinds of toxic fumes.

What About Donation?

Much like with recycling, donating your electronics is another viable solution for getting rid of your old electronics. Some services, like charities and homeless shelters, need machines for basic tasks and are happy to take whatever you give. If you’re personally familiar with someone from the organization you’re donating to, this can be a great way to cheaply get rid of your old electronics.

On the other hand, some “charities” are just the same third-world, fly-by-night recycling operations we’ve already talked about. Steer clear of these. You’re not helping anybody by donating to them, and you may be hurting them.

Even if you’re donating to a reliable organization, you’ll want to make sure your devices are thoroughly scrubbed of all your customer data before you hand it over.

Professional Services That Work

Reputable e-waste disposal services like Securis are the best option when it comes to disposing of e-waste.

We help you stay compliant and ensure your customer’s data remains protected throughout the recycling process. You also won’t have to worry about toxins and heavy metals from your electronics ending up in the environment.

If you would like to learn more about our services, please contact us today.

Dell Recycles 2 Billion Pounds of E-Waste

There can be no doubt that the technological advancements of the digital age have produced a myriad of benefits.

Access to information has never been more universal and no preceding generation ever had the ability to share with others and impact their world as we do today. You could say that this is indeed the best of times.

What is also true, however, is that there is a dark side to our wholehearted embrace of the digital age. Ironically, that drawback stems from the very gadgets we use.

Specifically, it arises out of how we handle discarded electrical and electronic devices or e-waste. There is a growing concern as to the negative effects e-waste has on the environment. It is an issue that must be tackled by individuals as well as by large and small corporations.

Dell is one of the companies leading the way in lowering the environmental impact of e-waste.

Dell’s E-waste Policy

With the assertion that “Technology drives what’s good,” the company has developed and implemented the Dell 2020 Legacy of Good Plan. The initiative began in 2013 and Dell has provided annual updates on its progress in achieving the stated goals.

One amazing revelation from the 2018 update is that Dell has already been able to meet its goal of recycling 2 billion pounds of e-waste by 2020 – that’s 2 years in advance. This was achieved through Dell’s industry-leading TakeBack initiative.

What is Dell doing with all of this e-waste which many of us simply discard without a second thought? Here is a quick look:

Recovering gold

Gold is one of the precious metals used in today’s electronics. Bust what most people don’t know is that Americans alone throw away in excess of $60 million worth of gold (and silver) each year within their discarded phones.

Dell has revealed that it uses roughly 7,000 pounds of gold annually in its manufacturing processes although only small amounts go into each device. It is currently on a mission to recover gold from e-waste and reuse it in new products.

As the company points out in a January 2018 blog post, its recycled gold is also making its way into jewelry. Dell and actress Nikki Reed have partnered to create a line of jewelry which uses gold from recycled e-waste.

Recycling carbon fiber

Dell has also recently partnered with SABIC, a chemicals manufacturing company, to recycle carbon fiber from e-waste. That carbon fiber, estimated at around 1 million pounds, is being reused in new computers the company produces. In fact, all the carbon fiber in some Dell items is recycled from e-waste.

Dell isn’t the only company, however, making use of recycled carbon fiber. There has been growing demand for recycled carbon fiber in the automobile and aircraft manufacturing sectors as well.

Reducing the impact of plastics

Over 90 products manufactured by Dell now boast the inclusion of closed-loop recycled plastics. That means Dell is focused on ensuring the plastics it uses are all fully recyclable.

It is also going a step further by reusing some of that same plastic, once it becomes e-waste, in its new products. The company also makes use of marine plastics in its effort to do as much as it can to protect the environment.

Every Little Bit Counts

According to STEP (Solving the E-Waste Problem), there were approximately 75 million tons of e-waste produced in 2015, which is triple the figure reported for 2010. It is true that even Dell’s mammoth achievement of 2 billion pounds of recycled e-waste pales in comparison to the staggering amount of e-waste produced. It is, nevertheless, a start.

Thankfully, Dell is not the only company making a dedicated effort to reduce, reuse and recycle e-waste. Its competitor Apple, for instance, is also on a mission to make full use of recycled metals in its new products. The company is making strides in reusing plastics and other materials from its manufacturing processes and e-waste.

Large technology companies like Dell are doing their part to ensure the figure begins trending downward. Your company can contribute to this environmentally-friendly initiative by contacting an IT recycling partner like Securis to find recycling solutions that best suit you. Contact us today to see how we can help.