Introduction
As technology keeps advancing at a rapid pace, so does the useful life of these devices. For example, on average, there is a new smartphone version which comes out at least every couple of years. The normal tendency is to upgrade to the next level, to take advantage of the newer features and benefits of that device. But during this upgrade process, the older device is very often disposed in a way that can be very harmful and detrimental to the environment in the long term (a smartphone can contain up to 60 dangerous elements). 

This is known as electronic waste, or e-waste for short. A more specific definition is as follows:

“E-waste or electronic waste is created when an electronic product is discarded after the end of its useful life.  [This includes] discarded computers, office electronic equipment, entertainment device electronics, mobile phones, television sets, and refrigerators.” (SOURCE: 1

E-Waste can contain potentially life-threatening materials if they are simply discarded into a waste area, such as a waste disposal bin or a landfill, such as:

  • Lead;
  • Cadmium;
  • Beryllium;
  • Brominated fire retardants.
e-waste
(Phoenixns/Shutterstock)

It is estimated that the number of electronic devices that are discarded in an unsafe manner is at least 50 million metric tons annually. To make matters even worse, it is expected that this number could increase as much as much as 500% within the next decade. Quite surprisingly, the United States remains the main culprit in terms of e-waste, by dumping more than 3 million metric tons on an annual basis. China is next in line, by disposing 2.3 million metric tons. 

It is also estimated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that only 15-20% of e-waste is recycled, and the rest is disposed of at various landfills. The focal point of this blog is to examine ways in which your business or corporation can safely dispose of the e-waste that it produces, so that that any potential harm to the environment can be mitigated.

How to reduce electronic waste
Here are some top tips:

1) Simply donate or sell the electronic devices you are to get rid of:
If you are planning to get upgrade your electronic gadget in question (such as a firewall or a router), do not just simply throw away the older device in question. Whenever possible, try to sell it on an online forum, such as eBay, or simply donate the item in question to another organisation that is need of it.

2) Consider using the smartphone for other uses:
As stated earlier, smartphones are the most heavily replaced electronic device, because newer versions keep coming out on a very frequent basis. The natural tendency here is to simply discard the older smartphone straight into the trash bin. But consider other uses for this. For example, you can keep this device in your car and use it as a dedicated GPS device (this will also help prevent fumbling around for mobile apps on your newer smartphone as your driving).

e-waste
(Estrada Anton/Shutterstock)

3) Consider the retail option:
In this aspect, many electronic and wireless retail stores offer recycling programmes for the older devices that you want to get rid of. In return, some of these entities will offer you something in return, such as store credit. Or, they may even give you a buyback option, in which you get a reduced price on your newer electronic device by giving the store your older product so that it can be recycled in the proper fashion.

4) Organise all your electronic devices:
In many business entities, electronic devices are scattered about in many different places, and can be difficult to locate. In these instances, if a device cannot be found, the tendency is to go out and purchase a new one. But rather than taking this approach, a more environmentally friendly one would be to organise and categorise all your electronic devices into one location and using them when it is required or necessary. Not only will this save money on your bottom line, but it will also prevent your company from disposing electronic devices in a haphazard fashion.

5) Educate your employees on battery disposal:
Batteries that can be recharged very often contain dangerous materials. In fact, many states have now made it an illegal activity if you simply throw any unwanted batteries straight into the trash can.  Therefore, it is especially important that you research your state’s laws into this and implement the best practices that are recommended for safe and legal disposal. Also, enforce a programme which penalises your employees if they are caught disposing of rechargeable batteries in an unsafe manner.

6) Make use of the Cloud to store your data:
Instead of using disposable clip drives or other forms of USB memory sticks, give serious consideration to using a Cloud platform in which you store and backup your data. There are many advantages to using the Cloud, especially when it comes to security and affordable pricing. Remember, thumb drives and memory sticks can be very easily stolen or lost. If this were to happen, the data that resides in them can be very easily retrieved and used for malicious purposes.

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