Electronic waste disposal becomes a business topic

Businesses need to think about reuse before recycling as e-waste poses a serious challenge as it is fast becoming the world’s largest solid waste stream. By properly managing and recycling this waste stream, companies have the opportunity to become more sustainable by changing their throwaway culture.

E-waste is receiving board-level attention and ITAD programs could be an excellent opportunity to contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals and help solve this global problem.

IT asset management and disposition campaigns should take a comprehensive approach, from what companies are buying to disposing of the assets. It goes far beyond environmental challenges; it just makes good business sense.

Here is a guideline on how companies can improve sustainability through proper IT asset management and replenishment programs.

Bridgette Vermaak, Xperien ITAD Specialist.

Buy sustainable electronics

In a world where the environment plays an important role in most purchasing decisions, companies should start the process by reviewing their sourcing approaches to gain a better understanding of their partners and suppliers. It is important to understand what IT resources you are buying and how they are structured.

Consider reuse initiatives

The best way to become more sustainable, protect the environment and save money is to recycle old electronics. Foster a culture of reuse within the organization and encourage positive behavior.

Reuse should always be the first option as new products require materials and energy to manufacture and transport. Most electronic devices have a lifespan of 10 years, but many devices are updated every 3 to 4 years, leaving many years of useful life on the table.

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It also makes financial sense, as simply extending a technology refresh by a year could save a company millions of rand.

If reuse is not an option, companies should hire a certified ITAD service provider who can prepare work equipment for reuse. Donations to charities and employee benefit programs are other options to extend the life of devices. Your best bet is to work with a reputable service provider who not only prepares machines for reuse but also helps with data destruction.

Circular economy initiatives help companies keep IT assets in use longer and get the maximum value from those electronics during use. You can then reclaim and regenerate products and materials at the end of their useful life.

Certified recycling

Recycling is the perfect way to improve sustainability goals. However, beware of dubious recyclers. It is important to work with a credible, accredited and certified recycler as they will eventually handle many of your discs.

Most industries have certifications that help maintain a high level of standards, especially in electronics recycling and ITAD. Well-known accreditations and certifications include ISO 9001, 14001 and 45001 specifically for ITAD, as well as Adisa, R2 and e-Stewards. These include:

1. ISO 9001 Quality Management Systems: Recyclers use this standard to demonstrate their ability to provide products and services that meet customer and regulatory requirements.

2. R2v3 Certification: This is a voluntary sustainability standard that certifies responsible electronics processors. IT asset managers working with ITAD companies with R2v3 certified infrastructure can be confident that their sensitive data will be destroyed, that electronics with residual value will be reused, and that their assets will not end up in a landfill or some remote country .

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3. The e-Stewards certification was introduced in 2009 by the Basel Action Network (BAN). The BAN was established with the aim of improving recyclers’ compliance with the Basel Convention.

4. ADISA IT Asset Recovery Certification: Recently upgraded to version 8, it is a UK-developed global standard for ITAD providers. The current version of the standard is approved by the UK Information Commissioner (ICO) as a UK GDPR certification scheme.

All of these standards cover environmental management, occupational and public health and safety and support the implementation of legal, regulatory and political frameworks.

It is important to note the difference between accreditation and membership in a Producer Responsibility Organization (PRO). The former is a qualification with annual audits to drive innovation and guarantee professionalism, while the latter is a scheme put in place to provide financial support to recyclers for unprofitable e-waste streams.

Examples of PROs and memberships in South Africa that do not require qualifications or audits are:

1. Ewasa – PRO: Members of the Waste Association of South Africa (eWASA) pay an annual fee and commit to abide by a code of ethics and a certificate is issued.

2. R2E2: Requirements not specified, but a certificate will be issued.

3. Ewaste Recycling Authority: NPC membership is free and an onboarding process to reveal details about your recycling operation.

Xperien is the only company in Africa to be R2v3 certified. It confirms that the company operates a Quality Management System (QMS) that meets the requirements of ISO 9001:2015, ISO14001 Environmental Management Systems and ISO45001 Health and Safety for the “Collection and Disposal of IT Assets and Equipment” as well as other strict criteria, that require an annual review.

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sustainability reporting

The importance of sustainability reporting is increasing amid efforts to assess, quantify, and communicate environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) metrics and advances toward net-zero carbon emissions and other sustainability goals.

ITAD initiatives are an excellent way to achieve sustainability goals, but this opportunity is often missed because gathering information from different departments or from ITAD and recycling partners could be challenging.

Proper sustainability reporting needs to be done to align with your sustainability metrics and goals. This could be done by a reputable, qualified and certified ITAD provider and should contain specific data from devices that are reused, resold, donated and recycled.