5 Critical Things to Know Before Getting Rid of Your E-Waste

By Michael Ostrea

In this day and age, our insatiable demand for “must have” new products and a constant need for businesses to upgrade electronic devices have led to an explosive growth in the electronics industry with new, state-of-the-art technology connecting us to the world, simplifying our daily lives, and maintaining a competitive edge. However, this has led to a rapidly escalating issue of end-of-life (EOL) electronics, also known as e-waste. The good news is that consumers have access to a number of recycling opportunities, considering the fact that many consumers are still not sure how to safely recycle old electronics.

Whether you donate your old electronic devices to be refurbished and reused as is, drop off your old devices at electronic recycling events, or employ the services of an authorized electronics recycler, you need to be aware of some important facts before choosing an option and bidding “farewell” to your devices.

Here are 5 critical things to know before getting rid of your e-waste:

Still Considering Dumping Your E-Waste with Your Trash? Don’t.

Contrary to what many people believe, your city’s waste collection department will not always separate your old electronics when they are placed in the trash. In fact, it’s highly likely that your state has imposed a landfill ban prohibiting electronic devices and appliances from going to the city landfill. Ignoring this ban can result in fines ranging from $100 per item to over $1,000 depending on your state. To date, landfill bans are imposed in 20 states across the U.S. and 25 states have mandated electronics recycling, covering 65% of the population. Yet, many Americans are unaware of this fact. In 2015, cable television giant Comcast agreed to pay the state of California $26 million to resolve allegations over illegal disposal of e-waste containing hazardous materials.

Understand that your old electronic devices contain elements that are toxic and harmful to the environment if disposed of improperly. So when it comes time to get rid of them, recycle or reuse options should be your top considerations.

Make Sure You Know Where Your E-Waste Goes

Dropping off your e-waste or having them collected does not necessarily mean that they will be recycled. In fact, according to the United Nations, e-waste is routinely exported by developed countries to developing ones such as India, Africa, and China, often in violation of the law. In the US, it is estimated that 50%-80% of e-waste collected for recycling is exported this way. The consequences of this practice have resulted in disastrous environmental pollution. In fact, an examination on dust, soil, and water samples in Delhi, India had revealed that a heavy range of toxic metal such as mercury, lead, and cadmium were found in the samples.

Environmental issues aside, not knowing how your old computers or storage devices are handled leaves you extremely susceptible to information theft. Even if you took the time to delete your old files off your laptop, desktop computer, smart phone, tablet, etc., you still may be vulnerable unless the electronic storage device has been wiped clean and clear by proven industrial methods.

To ensure that your old electronic devices will not be illegally shipped to developing countries and that any trace of personal information on electronic storage devices are not compromised, partner with R2 certified recyclers or recyclers with similar credentials. These certifications designate responsible, environmentally friendly companies with a rigid downstream process. Doing so will give you peace of mind knowing that your old devices are not causing harm to developing countries and that your data will not be at risk of theft.

Get to Know Your Recycler

This goes hand-in-hand with point number 2. As mentioned previously, it is risky to recycle your old electronics with companies that do not possess R2 certification or similar credentials which require downstream accountability. The list of recycling companies that will recycle your equipment may seem endless.  In reality, the number of companies you should consider working with is relatively small.  Avoid the temptation of working with companies that “promise” to work with certified recyclers “somewhere down the line.”

Be especially wary of flyers dropped off at your office or house asking you to put e-waste on the street. Often, these flyers neglect to identify their company name. This fact alone should throw alarming red flags that your old electronic devices may end up where they shouldn’t be.

Does your recycler have a physical location? Can they answer questions regarding the protection of your data? What specific devices do they accept and reject? What certifications do they have and what measures are in place to ensure incessant compliance with Local, State, and Federal regulations? These are all questions that a legitimate recycling company will be happy to answer.

Beware of “Free” Recycling Services

As the old saying goes, if it’s too good to be true, it most likely is.  This holds especially true for electronics recycling.

The reality is, responsible recycling isn’t cheap. In fact, it’s downright costly to ensure that your old electronic devices do not end up in the wrong hands and in a third world country. Yet, “free” recycling services are popping up like mushrooms in an Amazon rainforest. Choosing to go with these “free” programs presents some risks to you and your company. One of these risks is the temptation to cut corners by not using certified recyclers or simply moving your inventory to the highest bidder. Either scenario creates a risk that your equipment will end up in a compromising situation that may result in data breaches and environmental degradation.

Have a Formal Disposition Plan for Your E-Waste

The National Institute of Standards and Technology issued a Cybersecurity Framework that establishes best practices for data security. That framework specifically calls for assets to be “formally managed throughout removal, transfers, and disposition.”

When building or updating your company’s data security plan, be sure that you include very specific protocols for getting rid of your e-waste and, following points 2 and 3, include language that mandates the use of certified recyclers for all electronics and IT disposition.

Partnering up with the right e-waste recycling company will give you peace of mind knowing that your old and outdated electronic devices will be processed in a safe and responsible manner. Cal Micro Recycling is an R2-certified recycling company with over a decade of experience as e-waste recyclers. With a strong commitment to compliance and environmental sustainability, we help our clients determine the best course of action that determine their e-waste disposition needs. Contact us for more information about our recycling options.

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