How Do You Choose A Responsible Computer & Electronic Recycler?
When your company is considering recycling end-of-life computers and electronics, your planning should include reducing risk liability, data security and minimizing health risks.
Accountability for Safe Downstream Disposal
The Federal Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) forbids anything with a circuit board to be thrown out. Transferring title to a recycler or broker doesn’t sever your responsibility, so you need to know where your product is headed downstream. Companies must scrutinize all points in the disposition chain for responsible labor and environmental practices.
Often “Recycling” Means Resale
Most companies tend to recycle electronics when they still have useful life left in them. As a result, many established “recyclers” focus on winning corporate business so they may resell these assets in the secondary market in the U.S. or abroad.
With older electronics, recyclers typically strip out the most valuable parts, which are directly sold for money. The residual materials are then sold to brokers who further sell them to lower tier vendors. These “scavengers” have a lower cost base and are able to salvage some of this less valuable material. Eventually, however, the left-over material is worthless to anyone and ends up being dumped in landfills or exported as trash overseas? with no regard for its toxic effect on humans or the environment.
In addition, these older electronics are not being recycled in the true meaning of the word. Materials are NOT reemployed in other products nor are metals reused – practices that alleviate the need for society to consumer ever more raw materials when making new products.
There is no accountability or control in this open-ended recycling chain. When selecting a true recycler, look for a commitment to maximizing traceability of the electronics being recycled and transparency of the process.
Reclamation Of Raw Materials
Many types of electronic equipment contain materials suitable for reclamation and reuse in new products. These materials include plastic, glass, steel, aluminum, copper, gold, silver and other metals. Reusing and recycling the raw materials from end-of-life electronics conserves natural resources and avoids the air and water pollution that are caused by manufacturing new products.
De-manufacturing processes employed by many electronic “recyclers” produce some recyclables out of valuable commodities found in electronics. However, there are very few de-manufacturers that have a closed loop system whereby ALL materials started with are separated and fashioned into reusable commodities.
Last year billions in fines were paid by U.S. corporations in violation of data security laws. Highly proprietary data is on computing systems from both inside a company and on employees’ home computers. Data privacy and security issues are especially important at a firm where intellectual property is paramount to success. The Sarbanes-Oxley Act, HIPAA and Gramm Leach Bliley (GLB) compliance both necessitate data erasure of aged computers so that sensitive information doesn’t get left behind, and possibly venture into the wrong hands.
When selecting an electronics recycling company, ensure that the vendor truly protects human health and the environment. These are vendors who have signed the Electronics Recycler’s Pledge of True Stewardship; criteria developed by environmental groups for identifying electronic recyclers who properly handle hazardous electronic components, based on national and international laws. These recyclers pledge not to ship hazardous electronic waste to landfills, to developing countries or to prison operations in the US. The Pledge was developed by the Basel Action Network with the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition and Computer TakeBack Campaign.