Every single organization has e-waste. Devices that become e-waste include your computer monitor, laptop, hard drive, or mobile cell phone, and every time you replace them, you have electronic waste that is in need of proper e-waste recycling. However, it can be difficult to recognize at first glance how each device can be harmful to society and the environment.
Understanding the Security and Environmental Hazards of E-Waste
Private customer information, company data, and industry-related information can be stolen from every data-bearing device if it is not disposed of and destroyed properly. Not only can this be harmful to individuals, but it may lead to lawsuits and major financial consequences for your organization.
Alongside the data breach risks associated with e-waste, electronics that have not been recycled properly can result in significant environmental harm due to the toxins, chemicals, and materials contained within each device.
Simply throwing devices away into recycling bins or the garbage is highly irresponsible and may lead to negative consequences that will affect much more than just your organization.
To stay alert and jumpstart your organization's responsible e-waste management, here are four of the potential environmental hazards that are hiding in your facility's e-waste.
1. Integrated Tech Affects Air Quality
Technology integrations can be found in a wide variety of devices, including
- mobile devices,
- digital cameras,
- software applications,
- obsolete data storage,
- and more.
This means there is likely a wide variety of integrated technology within your facility.
While we never see integrated technology, this essential electronic component contains high-value materials like gold and silver, which are often removed with acids, desoldering, and other chemicals used in processes when recycling is not being regulated.
The environmental impacts of this process are incredibly dangerous, with the potential to harm those in the immediate vicinity and surrounding neighborhood during the destruction process, including wildlife.
Fumes from these chemicals are released into the air, endangering biodiversity and reducing water and soil quality. Over time, this can lead to health problems, including a heightened risk of cancer and chronic diseases.
2. Heavy Metals Can Hurt Our Soil & Water
Contained within a wide variety of electronics, including computers and mobile devices, heavy metals such as mercury, lithium, lead, and barium can have long-lasting and devastating effects on the environment.
When devices are disposed of within landfills or dumped illegally, the heavy metals can leach and enter both the water and soil, impacting a variety of critical components of our ecosystem.
Once they have entered the soil, heavy metals can enter groundwater reserves and contaminate local crops, causing illness when plants are consumed, as well as reducing the farmland’s productivity and health in the future.
Within the groundwater, heavy metals will also flow eventually into nearby rivers, lakes, and ponds, impacting the health of local wildlife that rely on these waterways. Causing acidification and toxification of the water, both animals and humans who utilize this water for drinking may experience a host of negative health effects, including damage to:
- and the central nervous system.
3. Your Facility’s Tech Has a Global Impact
When e-waste is not managed properly by a domestic electronic recycling service provider, the majority of old devices are shipped to developing countries. With fewer recycling regulations in place, communities within these countries are forced to contend with devastating environmental crises. Known as the Informal Waste Sector, these unregulated recycling facilities are placing the health of their workers and local communities at risk.
Toxic chemicals from the plants during the destruction and disposal process will leak into the local soil and waterways. Lead, nickel, mercury, and many other harmful chemicals can harm expectant mothers and children, leading to:
- generations of ongoing health problems,
- poor neurological development,
- changes in lung function,
- impaired thyroid function,
- and an increased risk of chronic illness later in life.
While we may not see the negative effects of e-waste directly within our facilities, if you are not aligning your e-waste and ITAD (IT Asset Disposition) needs with a local, certified expert, you may be adding to the global environmental burden of improperly managed e-waste.
4. Each Device Has a Carbon Footprint
When a new device is produced, carbon emissions are created, adding to human-made climate change. In fact, the majority of carbon emissions are produced when devices are made, meaning more needs to be done to reduce the environmental impact of device manufacturing.
This is why the proper recycling and management of your devices is critical. Aligning your e-waste management with a certified processor, your devices can be recycled for parts and materials, which will reduce the emissions created when new devices are manufactured. By reducing the number of new materials that need to be made, we can help make electronics manufacturing a more sustainable process, prolonging the life of each individual device.
Need Support Managing Environmental Hazards of E-Waste?
Now you're more knowledgeable on the importance of recycling e-waste. The sustainable and ethical processing of your organization’s e-waste may seem overwhelming. But you do not have to manage the environmental hazards of e-waste in your facility on your own.
For organizations who are unfamiliar with proper and sustainable IT Asset Disposition processes, we recommend aligning your e-waste needs with a certified third-party expert, who can guide you and your team through the full process — keeping you accountable and sustainable.
With Greentec’s help, you can remain confident in the fact that your organization is not only diverting harmful chemicals and toxins away from the environment but is also able to capitalize on the hidden value and strategically plan a full digital transformation.
For more information on how Greentec can kickstart your sustainable ITAD process, schedule a free ITAD Roadmap call with our experienced team.