Although it’s tempting to throw away your old, broken-down computers and electronics, the proper recycling, refurbishment and sanitisation of your computer equipment should really be part of any business’ sustainable waste strategy. There are several reasons why, but two of the most important factors among them are the fact that improperly discarded electronics can be hazardous to the environment, contaminating soil and water and contributing to a large part of the UK’s waste. The second reason is the risks around data breaches, whereby sensitive personal data can often be found on discarded IT equipment.
To avoid adding to this growing problem, a corporate strategy is therefore imperative, especially with government regulations, such as the WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment) directive in place to deal with hazardous waste and the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) governing the protection of personal data. Despite growing awareness of recycling and its importance, some of us may be a little unsure of what to do with our obsolete equipment.
To explain what can be recycled, as well as the variety of options available, this guide is here to help your business so you can make a positive start on its secure corporate recycling scheme.
What is e-waste?
Though somewhat loosely defined, e-waste – or electronic waste – is the name given to electronic products that have reached the end of their “useful life”. This includes your typical office equipment such as computers, monitors, televisions, copiers, printers and phones – many of which can be reused, refurbished or recycled. And since some of these items contain hazardous parts, getting rid of them in the proper manner is essential.
What is the impact of e-waste?
Since it’s impossible to run a business without using electronics, the impact of electronic waste can be huge. And with ever-advancing technology ensuring newer models are always hitting the market; coupled with the relatively low cost to replace old models, both of these factors contribute to the need to update our office equipment. This means there’s a greater need to dispose of business electronics responsibly, especially with around 12.5 million computers being thrown into UK landfills over the past few years.
Such a practice is not only incredibly wasteful, but massively harmful to the environment as well. Since monitors, hard drives, printers and circuit boards all contain lead, mercury, chromium and beryllium, these toxic chemicals can contaminate soil and water, before evaporating in the air. It’s here that they have the potential to enter the food chain and cause harm as a result.
In developing countries, e-waste is often shredded and burned in unsafe sites, and the resulting emissions from these recycling practices create all manner of atmospheric pollution. Specifically, the toxic materials contained in computers and electronics such as lead, nickel, barium and chromium can cause damage to blood and kidneys, as well as our central and peripheral nervous systems.
Improper disposal of such equipment is doubly important for businesses. For a start, corporate social responsibility has become increasingly more important. Following certain responsibilities reflects positively on a company both legally and ethically, so environmental actions such as recycling, which can reduce your carbon footprint and minimise the amount of waste you produce, should be part and parcel of a business’ corporate social responsibility strategy. Showing that you operate ethically is key to maintaining a good reputation, especially in an age where social media provides great power in the hands of your consumers.
Secondly, the two-fold importance of corporate recycling relates to information such as financial info, credit card numbers, and client details that can still be stored and accessed even after disposal. Without recycling such equipment, you can put your business at serious risk if said information is taken. To avoid this happening, certified recyclers will shred or wipe your hard drives, ensuring all data and information is destroyed properly, leaving nothing to chance.
How does computer recycling work?
The process of recycling IT electricals involves extracting certain materials and using these extractions to create something brand new. Usually, a PC is made of 23% plastic, 50% metal, 12% electronic boards, and 15% glass, while a single computer has its fair share of lead too. Other valuable elements include gold, silver, platinum and copper; all of these elements make PCs more difficult to recycle than other products.
Discarded equipment is taken to a reprocessing plant and shredded into small pieces. Strong magnets remove metals such as steel, while non-magnetic metals are separated using an electrical current, known as an eddy current. The varying types of plastic are identified and sorted using a light that’s similar to infrared, with glass being washed to remove any impurities before it’s crushed and melted. These raw materials are made into a new product; including jewellery and furniture, as well as new computers and laptops.
How should I recycle my office electricals?
What should I do before recycling my computers?
When equipment reaches the end of its life, all the important data and files that were previously accessed will remain on there. If the data isn’t properly deleted, then this data can be accessed by someone else, leaving the business open to a risk of fraud.
And since simply deleting the files using your Operating System doesn’t remove the data, the entire hard disk drive must be overwritten to ensure proper erasure of data. That’s where CDL’s methods come in.
We use WhiteCanyon to permanently wipe software and data – not only is it our preferred way of wiping our old equipment, its positive environmental impact makes it so much better than simply physically destroying drives. It’s also the method of choice for the likes of Amazon, Interpol, IBM and Microsoft too. Comprehensive and customisable, WhiteCanyon can take care of sanitising your equipment, whether it’s a few or a few thousand drives you need wiping.
And, in the event that your data can’t be overwritten – due to a faulty device meaning that we can’t overwrite all of the data for example – then your hard drives will be taken care of at our facility, using CDL’s Untha RS40 HDD shredder, where they will be shredded into granular pieces.
For more information on the various data destruction methods, check out our in-depth guide here.
Recycling office electricals
Set up in 2007, the WEEE directive was introduced as a way to offer customers a means of disposing of their electrical and electronic equipment, when sellers offer them a new version of the same item. Fully compliant with the WEEE directive, CDL can take away and recycle multiple pieces of equipment for you, including computers, laptops, monitors and more, freeing you up to focus on running your business properly.
Safe, secure and sustainable, our WEEE legislation-compliance and eco-friendly approach means zero landfill waste, confirmation that your data has been destroyed across all devices to the highest standards, and a risk-free solution to your business’ recycling needs.
For more of the latest news, guides and features from the CDL team, click here to visit our blog. If you’d like to find out more about our IT disposal solutions, visit our homepage or call our team now on 0333 060 5623.