Why we must work together to reduce e-waste

E-waste is now the world's fastest-growing waste stream and we all have a part to play in tackling the issue...

Andrew Bentley

03/04/2020

Our insatiable desire for the latest and most exciting electronic devices isn’t just bad for our wallets. It’s problematic for the earth too.

It turns out that constantly upgrading your desk phones, computers, and other electronic equipment might make you feel like the snazziest company on the block, but it could also mean leaving a huge footprint on the environment.

According to the United Nations, the ever-increasing churn of electronic products is creating a tsunami of e-waste. If that wasn’t terrifying enough – the problem is only getting bigger.

Despite countless companies committed to “greener” operations throughout Britain, the UK is currently standing as one of the worst offenders in Europe for our e-waste issues. Apparently, we’ve got a particularly bad habit of exporting toxic electronics to developing countries, according to a two-year report from the Basel Action Network.

The BAN group put GPS trackers on 314 computer units placed in recycling facilities across 10 users and found that the UK was the worst at dumping our machines at other people’s doors.

Here at Nice Network, we think it’s time to make a change.

The amount of e-waste is rising: We need a solution

Human beings have had problems with disposing of electronic waste from the day that the very first computer chip was created. However, we didn’t notice the issue as much when technology was one of those luxuries that only big enterprises could afford.

Now, tech is becoming more integrated into every aspect of our lives. Sensors and semiconductors are appearing in products that never had them before. We’re experimenting with everything from smart doorbells to intelligent speakers, and wearable trackers.

Meanwhile, the lifespan of these devices is getting shorter. Not only are we contending with batteries that constantly die and damaged equipment, but people have a habit of getting rid of products before they become obsolete. We’re constantly updating and replacing, rather than repairing.

To some extent this replacement, not repair mindset makes sense. You don’t want to be the last business in your industry that’s unable to tap into the value of the latest mobile services just because you refuse to get rid of your old equipment.

However, staying on the cutting edge in the digital world needs to come with a consideration of how we can update our companies without downgrading the environment.

Why is electronic waste such a big problem?

If you haven’t encountered the problem of electronic waste before now, you might not understand what makes this issue so significant.

After all, it’s just metal and plastic, right?

Well, partially. Electronic devices are actually made up of a complicated mixture of materials that includes everything from copper and platinum, to lithium and gold. According to the EPA in US, a metric ton of circuit boards could contain between 40 and 800 times the volume of gold mined from a metric ton of ore. Without a good recycling strategy, we’re simply throwing those precious metals into the skip.

It’s not just sheer wastefulness that makes failing to recycle electronic waste such an issue either. Many of these devices also come packed full of toxic components too, like beryllium, PVC plastic, lead, mercury, and hazardous chemicals. Thrown into a landfill, these products harm both the environment and human health.

As our very own Andrew Bentley notes: “The majority of e-waste just isn’t recycled properly these days. People don’t know what to do with their old telephones and computers, so they just throw them in a skip, and hope for the best. However, that often means that these devices can end up contaminating water supplies and filling up crucial space on the earth.”

As the consumption of electronic equipment increases, manufacturers are even beginning to struggle with shortages of raw materials required to make those products. A recent study in China found that mining copper, aluminium, and gold from ore costs 13 times more than just recycling the same products from e-waste.

The benefits of improving your e-waste recycling efforts

The good news for today’s brands is that you can decide to stop being a part of the electronic waste problem and start contributing to the solution instead.

Remember, properly recycling and disposing of your old machines doesn’t just benefit the environment, it could be advantageous to your security and privacy standards too. If you know that all of your phones, computers, and other devices need to go through a recycling preparation process, then you’re less likely to forget about the sensitive data that you might forget to delete on an old laptop.

A safe data and device disposal strategy can guide every member of your staff through the process of wiping their hard-drives, backing up crucial information, and formatting disks before equipment goes to be recycled. This ensures that you never have to worry about a criminal coming across an old computer that you left outside in your business skip.

Another benefit of improving your approach to e-waste recycling is that it can help you to save a lot of money. While there will be times when you need to update your devices to the latest version so you can stay ahead of the competition, you can take a more mindful approach to what you waste.

Business leaders and IT teams can work together on a set of criteria that they need to implement when determining whether a product should be repaired and upgraded or replaced entirely. Sometimes, something as simple as adding new hard—drives or implementing additional memory into a computer in your office can remove the need for a complete replacement.

Since upgrading your existing hardware is often less expensive than replacing it entirely, you can save a lot of money on products that look, feel, and work like new.

Taking a different approach to electronics

For many businesses, the key to overcoming the issue of e-waste will simply be embracing a new attitude. For instance, rather than merely throwing a phone into the bin because you have a newer, better model, you could consider donating it to someone who’s just getting started on building their own business.

There are countless people out there, from entrepreneurs to everyday consumers who would jump at the chance to get their hands on a device that you consider to be obsolete.

At the same time, many companies may benefit from reducing their reliance on hardware as much as possible too. For instance, when the time comes to replace your desk phones with something more efficient, you could consider whether you need to put another piece of plastic on your desks.

The rise of BYOD means that many businesses can now install softphone software onto their employees’ existing devices, to avoid investing in new technology.

At the same time, taking advantage of the cloud for things like storage solutions and UCaaS (Unified Communications as a Service) means that you can begin to replace a lot of hardware in your office with environmentally friendly software.

Not only do you cut down the amount of cash you would spend on hardware by moving into the cloud, but you open yourself up to a new, more scalable business model, where you can invest in new technology and opportunities as they appear.

It’s Time to Recycle Responsibly

At Nice Network, we’re already doing our part to reduce the rise of e-waste. We recently agreed to a new partnership deal with Rebuyer – one of the leading companies in helping businesses to restore and resell their old devices. Rebuyer is giving us a new way to help our clients eliminate waste once and for all while making back some extra cash to put towards initial investments.

Commenting on the new partnership, Someone’s name from Nice Network said:

“Old electronics are constantly dumped, thrown into landfills, and hacked for data. Ultimately, it’s dangerous for both businesses and the environment for e-waste to continue growing in this fashion. By working with Rebuyer, we can help our clients to overcome the electronic waste problem once and for all. Plus, they get to benefit financially from the process.”

The Basel Action Network currently claims that around 40% of the waste given to recyclers at electronic plants isn’t disposed of properly. Working with a company like Rebuyer gives you the peace of mind that comes with knowing that you’re participating in an approved, regulated, and reliable recycling scheme.

Are you ready to fight back against the e-waste problem?

Contact Nice Network today, and join the recycling revolution.