Advancing Tech - Triumph Or Trouble?

12 May 2015

The sheer speed at which technology is developing is breath-taking, and no-one can deny that in recent years, some accomplishments have been nothing less than remarkable. From smart phones, interactive TVs and 3D printers to virtual reality goggles, drones and robotic soldiers... many innovations look like they are straight out of a futuristic sci-fi movie.

A downside is that, for the consumer, rapid advancements in technology mean that computers, phones and other electronic devices become obsolete very quickly. Mobile phones have become a lot more multifunctional and now have integrated apps for calendars, satellite navigation, and playing music. Printers have become cheaper than toner cartridges and even come for free with some computers. Constant software upgrades force our hand to upgrade our devices and electronics, and in 2009 millions of perfectly good TVs were dumped when broadcasters switched from analog to digital. Then we needed to upgrade to HD TV. And now of course we need to upgrade to 4K TV. The list goes...

Our ever-expanding digital appetite means that more and more of us now have an "old phone drawer", filled to the brim with discarded mobile phones, sat navs, MP3 players and PDAs. Devices seem to have shorter and shorter life spans, and are cheaper to buy new than to get repaired.

It is almost as if some electronic devices are designed for the dump before they have even been sold. Subsequently, electronic waste is now the fastest growing part of the waste stream.

Did you know...

There are a few things you should know about your discarded electronic waste:

1) Discarded electronic waste could actually hold a lot of value

Discarded computers, servers and printers are often filled with valuable electronics. Even household items such as fridges and toasters have components that could easily be remarketed. Common metals such as copper contained in wiring can fetch a premium price turning landfill sites into potential gold mines.

2) Discarded electronic waste may contain hazardous compounds that damage the environment if dumped

Many electronic items contain harmful heavy metals which can cause serious environmental issues if placed into landfill or incinerated. Harmful substances can leach into the soil and surface water and find their way into lakes or streams, causing damage to flora and fauna, and also affecting those who eat the contaminated fish and plants.

Common hazardous substances include:

Cadmium: This metallic element can cause serious injury to the kidneys if allowed to accumulate in the human body.

Mercury: Mercury is a heavy metal found in medical equipment, batteries and fluorescent light bulbs and can cause severe damage to the brain and the kidneys. It can be absorbed through the skin, inhaled as vapours and can also be passed on through breast milk. Mercury can accumulate in fish, which when eaten can cause serious harmful effects on humans.

Lead: Lead is a toxic heavy metal that is present in most electronics. Lead poisoning can lead to damage to the nervous system, reproductive system and to the kidneys. It is especially harmful in young children. Lead is found in large amounts in TV monitors, mercury lamps and cathode ray tube monitors (which can contain between 4 and 8lbs of lead!).

3) Discarded electronic waste could still hold data which presents a security problem

Companies are now obligated to dispose of sensitive information in a responsible and secure manner in accordance with current legislation such as the Data Protection Act. In order to assure important and sensitive data has been completely and securely erased prior to disposal, it is essential to invest in the assistance of a reputable computer recycling firm. If you fail to dispose of sensitive data in the correct way and fall victim to a data breach, it is your company that will (literally) pay the price, not the recycling company. NHS Surrey were fined £200,000 for failing to securely dispose of data when it was discovered that sensitive information about 3,000 patients had made its way into the public domain.

A shocking data breach in the US involved details of a military missile air defence system (including test launch procedures and employees' social security numbers) being found on a used hard drive bought on eBay.

Are the tech companies to blame?

Developments in technology and design show no signs of slowing (should we want to slow down such progress?). However, our throwaway society has the potential to have serious negative effects on the environment. Should the technology companies be responsible? Or should we as individuals be accountable for our disposal habits?

Electronic and technology companies claim they are sustainable and "do their bit" for the environment, but perhaps a more efficient and longer termed plan would be to make sure that products and devices are not so disposable. Perhaps companies should put more emphasis into designing devices that are easily upgradeable and are built to last.

Another approach would be to promote the development of Green Chemistry, the process of redesigning materials used to make electronics, removing the need for heavy metals and hazardous chemicals so that electronic waste no longer has the potential to cause harm to the environment. After all, it is surely better to prevent waste rather than attempt to clean up afterwards?

Perhaps we ALL need to be mindful about the harm we are doing to the environment when we fail to recycle our computers and other electronic equipment efficiently and take the easy option of dumping it straight into the bin. By recycling not only could we make the environment more healthy, we could also make ourselves more wealthy!


Recycling Computers & Electronics Responsibly

CDL specialise in the secure disposal and recycling of computers, laptops and other electronic equipment. We offer collection from anywhere in the UK using our own fleet of vehicles and security-vetted drivers, and hold all relevant accreditations to ensure professional, reliable and secure recycling and disposal of all redundant IT equipment.

Call us today on 01925 7330033 to speak to a member of our team, or fill out our online quote tool to obtain a free quote for your recycling and disposal needs.

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