There are an increasing number of reports documenting the problem of e-waste. This is a global issue, and it seems to be getting worse with every day that passes by. As a supplier of communication solutions, we believe it's important that all of our clients know how to dispose of all hardware and telecommunications equipment properly and safely. This is something we also deal with a lot when helping companies to relocate. So, let's take a look...
E-waste refers to any electronic or electrical waste, from mobile phones and microwaves to refrigerators and laptops. A large proportion of this type of waste is simply dumped in landfills and it is causing a significant amount of damage. With that being said, continue to read on to discover more about e-waste and the health and environmental impacts.
Why is e-waste a problem?
Electronic and electrical items contain materials that are extremely harmful to the environment. This is why they need to be disposed of in a safe and correct manner. If you don’t do this, the toxic metals that are present can have a negative impact on the environment and the people that live in the area. For example, a computer alone can contain all of the following: polyvinyl chloride, BFR, beryllium, mercury, cadmium, lead, and phosphor compounds. Let’s take a look at four of the most dangerous components in further detail:
• Cadmium – This poison is used in stabilisers, pigments, metal coatings, and batteries. It is a poison that can accumulate in the body, especially in the kidneys, and it is a known carcinogen, which means those exposed to the chemical are at risk of cancer.
• Mercury – Mercury is still found in old fluorescent light bulbs, thermometers, batteries, and it is the most potent neurotoxin in existence. This can intoxicate fish, which in turn makes them dangerous to eat.
• Lead – Lead is another dangerous element, and it can be extremely hazardous when exposed to humans, with the central nervous system, kidneys, and liver most at risk. For this reason, lead is now banned, however, this does not stop it from being present in electronics.
• Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) – PAH can be dangerous, and it affects areas such as the bladder, lungs, and skin.
Disposing of technology responsibility
Now that you know about the toxic chemicals featured in e-waste, it is not difficult to see why e-waste needs to be recycled, reused, or refurbished in a safe manner as opposed to simply being thrown in the bin. The three methods are explained below:
• Recycle – If you can’t reuse the equipment, then the best option is to recycle it. You will find that there are companies that have e-waste take-back services in place. Another option is to hire an e-waste recycler to give you the peace of mind that everything is being handled correctly.
• Reuse – This does not mean that you have to reuse the product. However, there may be someone else that is more than happy to have it if it is still in working order. Therefore, you may want to consider selling it or donating it.
• Refurbish – Another option is to refurbish the product. You could take the components from your item and reuse them for something else, for example.
The WEEE Regulations
The WEEE Regulations were launched in 2007 in an attempt to combat the issue. These regulations aim to lower the quantity of electronic and electrical equipment that ends up in landfills, as such items are responsible for causing a significant amount of environmental damage while also posing a huge risk to human health. The WEEE Regulations have been updated since they were first released in an attempt to improve their effectiveness and to incorporate the aspects that arose from the government initiative, the Red Tape Challenge, as well as the recast Directive 2012/19/EU. With that being said, read on to discover whether you need to be concerned with the WEEE Regulations, and, if so, how they impact you.
The first thing you need to do is decipher whether you are impacted by the WEEE regulations. These regulations apply to all businesses and organisations that carry out any of the activities that are listed below:
• Do you sell electronic and electrical equipment to household customers?
• Do you import electronic and electrical equipment to the United Kingdom?
• Do you manufacture electronic and electrical equipment under your own brand?
• Do you re-brand electronic and electrical equipment that was manufactured by another company with your own brand?
If you have answered yes to any of these questions, you need to be concerned with the WEEE Regulations that are in place. But, what does this mean? Well, there are various steps that you need to take. This begins with joining a WEEE compliance scheme. You must do this within 28 days of placing electronic and electrical equipment onto the market in the United Kingdom. Aside from this, you will need to confirm the quantity of electronic and electrical equipment you have placed onto the market and you will need to ensure that all of your items feature the symbol of a wheeled bin that is crossed out and a producer identification mark. In addition to this, it is your responsibility to finance the cost of disposing of WEEE – including the collection, treatment, recovery, and disposal of electronic and electrical equipment in an environmentally sound manner.
Do you sell technology products to household consumers in the United Kingdom? If so, you have a duty to provide your consumers with adequate information about e-waste. You need to inform them about their role in recycling, the meaning of the crossed out wheeled bin symbol that was mentioned earlier, why it is critical to separate electronic and electrical equipment waste from other waste streams, as well as the environmental impact that occurs from the hazardous substances that are found in WEEE.
Last but not least, it is your responsibility to offer a take-back service. This must be offered free of charge and it means that you need to take back any old equipment from your consumers when they purchase another from your store on a like for like basis. There is another option; you can become a part of the Distributor Take Back Scheme (DTS). This scheme is concerned with setting up WEEE collection facilities around the country. If you go down this route, you will need to make a financial contribution.