The one truth about technology is that it will always break–usually at the most inopportune time. When it does finally kick the bucket, how are you getting rid of your e-waste?
It’s not as though you can just toss an old server or printer in the bin. Recycling your technology is the most responsible thing to do, but you have to be cognizant of the company you are trusting to dispose of your Compaq Presario from 1997, because they may not be doing what they are claiming to do; or worse yet, they may be trying to syphon data off your old hardware.
In 2017 there was 44.7 million metric tonnes (49.2 tons) of e-waste disposed of in 2017. This was not only a full eight percent increase from 2014, but it is equal in weight to 4,500 Eiffel Towers. This includes all types of electronics, from refrigerators to smartphones and everything in between.
E-waste is the fastest-growing part of the world’s waste stream and is expected to see a further 17 percent growth over the next four years.
The main issue with e-waste, and why it such a problem for any environment in which it is dumped, is that many of these electronics have circuitry or other mechanisms that hold require the use of poisonous metals.
Over time these metals, and other deadly chemicals get into the water and it can have devastating consequences for whole communities of people. Since this is a problem that isn’t just going to go away, finding solutions to mitigate the damage to people is going to extremely important for the foreseeable future.
Beyond the physical harm done, there is a large political question surrounding e-waste. Many environmental advocates have begun to support a strategy of mandatory recycling, but it hasn’t been ascertained who will be responsible to foot the bill for these programs.
Some have suggested that manufacturers should be somewhat responsible for the good that they produce. Since today, manufacturers aren’t asked to take-back any of their products, many entities have begun calling for them to begin some type of program where they shoulder more of the responsibility.
Of course, this strategy has its detractors. Firstly, in order to afford to trash/recycle the goods these manufacturers would have to pass on the cost of doing so onto the consumer.
While this isn’t as bad of a plan as poisoning land in water in some developing nations somewhere. In essence, the cost would be passed onto the consumer, especially since many people purchase and use so many electronic devices.
The problem becomes that companies would likely claim that any rise in cost would throw their perfect equilibrium, where they work to maximize profit for their shareholders, while providing a cost-effective product for their customers.
This hasn’t stopped several states from proposing (and passing) extended producer responsibility laws aimed at getting more private money to spend on the proper disposal of e-waste. Moreover, champions of this legislation rightfully state that it is also advantageous for manufacturers, as a vast majority of this e-waste has components that, when recycled, could be utilized in the manufacturing of other products.
Okay so your computer is junk. Everyone reading this has been through it. You get rid of it at the local recycling place, or via a garbage or recycling service. Think for a minute, did you just get the photos and videos off of your old machine and toss it?
A personal computer, and more so a mobile device has a lot of data on it. Even if you choose to wipe the hard drive on these devices, if they are disposed of and picked up by someone who knows what they are doing, your personal information is likely in danger.
Before trashing your hardware, be sure to take some time and go through your machine to know exactly what you’ve left on there, and if you don’t like what you find, be sure to destroy the hard disk of the computer in question.
Nothing is worse than getting caught up in identity theft or phished relentlessly because you chose not to properly dispose of your old junk computer.
What You Can Do?
When your electronics get old, or at least when you replace them, try to find someone that can use them. If you don’t find any takers, you have to know that there are several organizations committed to reducing e-waste.
Doing some diligent research to find out where a company takes its e-waste and promoting a company that is trying to do some good, can go a long way toward helping the problem. This waste isn’t just going to go away, but with proper disposal and recycling, good can be accomplished.