The E-waste Disconnect. How Do We Fix It?

18 May 2017

When it comes to e-waste, are you fully aware of your responsibilities?

The simple fact is that the more technology we buy, the more there is to throw away as we feed our seemingly insatiable appetite for upgrading to the latest and greatest versions as our tech becomes rapidly obsolete. A PC has an expected lifespan of 3 to 5 years, with a smartphone lasting on average 2 years at best.

This rapid obsolescence means that there is more waste to recycle and reuse, which of course would be great if this happened as a matter of course. But there seems to be a ‘disconnect’. Some say that although consumers want to ‘do the right thing’, they simply don’t know how or where to recycle devices, and when you consider that e-waste can contain a toxic cocktail of mercury, lead, cadmium and many other hazardous materials that can cause environmental havoc and damage human health, these consumers really do need to be educated.

And it’s not just consumers; retailers and distributors are often in the dark about their responsibilities too. If you sell electrical and electronic equipment, you must provide a way for your customers to safely dispose of their old household equipment when you sell them an upgraded version of the same item.


Whether you sell the products directly, via the internet, mail order or telephone, you must –


1. Provide a free in-store take back service to customers

2. Enable an alternative free take back service

If you’re not able to provide your own take back services, you will be required to join the Distributor Take Back Scheme (DTS) under the waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) regulations, or you could face the threat of prosecution.


Results of the Countering WEEE Illegal Trade Summary Report has concluded that only around 35% - that’s about 3.3 million tons, of all European e-waste discarded in 2012 ended up in the officially reported totals of collection and recycling systems.


The remaining 65% was either exported, recycled under non-compliant conditions in Europe, scavenged for parts, or simply thrown into rubbish bins.

The responsibility of reducing e-waste cannot be placed on consumers or manufacturers alone. As well as requiring producers of electronic equipment to offer buy-back or return systems for our old tech, perhaps governments could offer some sort of tax break or rebate for companies that effectively process old electrical and electronic goods.

However it’s done, it’s clear the ‘disconnect’ will not be a simple fix and re-education will take time.


Reduce e-waste through secure computer recycling. It’s your responsibility.

The importance of responsible computer recycling has never been more vital, if you want to play your part in reducing potentially health and environmentally-harming e-waste, as well as keeping your data secure. So if your company is one that is committed to the ethical recycling of its obsolete computers and technology products, make sure secure and environmentally friendly computer recycling that adheres to proper recycling regulations is part of your consideration. It’s also important to be aware that 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.

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