Is illegal dumping creating a tech trash time bomb?

18 March 2016

Posing as computer recycling companies, criminal gangs are contributing to a toxic time bomb of e-waste by dumping hundreds of containers of broken IT equipment in the developing world every week. Shockingly, according to the UN up to 90% of the world’s electronic waste is illegally dumped, damaging the environment by leaking toxic materials such as lead and mercury. But because it’s such a lucrative industry for these criminals, it’s very difficult to stop it happening.


“I could write the best policy in the world and there would still be dumping because it is a lucrative industry. It doesn’t matter how pretty the paperwork is, it is still going to happen.”  - Catalina McGregor, the Government’s deputy champion for green IT


Taking responsibility for the toxic waste mountain

The increasing piles of dumped technology in developing countries can be incredibly hazardous for the people who live nearby. It’s a sad fact that children are often among the workers who try to extract valuable materials such as copper, using less than safe methods.

One way to take on the criminal dumping of e-waste is to ensure that we all recycle our tech products responsibly, by always using a reputable computer recycling company.

Change the way your business or organisation procures and uses IT to prevent waste being dumped by –

1. Just to reiterate – always use a reputable computer recycling firm!

2. Buy products that adhere to EPEAT standards with low levels of toxic materials and audit the recycling process. EPEAT is a comprehensive global environmental rating system that helps purchasers identify greener computers and other electronics.

3. Put a very strict set of specifications in your company’s asset disposition contract. There needs to be an audit trail, asset tags, disposition reports, and a report on any change in the sub-contractor.


“We are facing the onset of an unprecedented tsunami of electronic waste rolling out over the world.” Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (Unep)


Make a commitment to responsible computer recycling.

To avoid the huge fines imposed on companies by regulators for the improper disposal of technology waste that may lead to pollution or data breaches, make sure that environmentally friendly computer recycling is part of your company ethos. With e-waste being one of the fastest growing sources of waste globally, its safe disposal has never been more important, thanks in no small part to the increasing rate at which technological developments render existing products redundant. So if you want to keep your data completely secure and the environment healthy, make sure secure and environmentally friendly computer recycling that adheres to proper recycling regulations is part of your consideration. And because companies are now legally obliged to safely dispose of potentially sensitive information in accordance with current security laws and the Data Protection Act of 1998, be sure only to use a computer recycling company that operates in accordance with, and preferably exceeds all government guidelines such as the WEEE Directive and the Data Protection Act. Because if you suffer a data breach, it’s you that has to count the cost of a fine, not the recycling company. So choose wisely.

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