The Growing E-Waste Problem & What You Can Do

What is E-Waste?

Here at LoopCR we talk a lot about being environmentally friendly, but what type of waste do we prevent? It’s E-Waste.

E-waste is old and discarded electronic devices or devices nearing their end of shelf life. For example, desktops, laptops, stereos, and printers are all examples of E-Waste that can be collected by us. We take these electronics for refurbishment, reuse, resale and for environmental salvage. 

Why it is a problem?

According to the WEEE forum in 2019, there have been an estimated 50 million tonnes of E-Waste generated globally. Half of this is personal devices such as computers, screens, smartphones, tablets and TVs.

Only 20% of global E-Waste is recycled each year, which means that 40 million tonnes of E-Waste are either placed in a landfill, burned or illegally traded and treated in a sub-standard way and this is despite 66% of the world’s population being covered by E-Waste legislation.

This results in the huge loss of valuable and critical raw materials from the supply chain and causes serious health, environmental and societal issues through illegal shipments of waste to developing countries.

You may have read in the news recently that China and many South East Asian countries have banned all E-Waste imports. Poor recycling practices which are not environmentally friendly such as burning cables to get the copper and gold out of devices places people’s health at risk through exposure to toxic elements.

The World Health organisation lists harmful materials from E-Waste that causes health risks from direct contact. Materials like Lead, Cadmium, Chromium can be inhaled when burned. Moreover, toxic materials can be retained in the environment entering soil, water and food.

Children are especially vulnerable to health risks as they are still developing their intake of food, air and water are much higher compared to their weight and height, increasing the risk of toxic chemicals being absorbed into the body.

What is the UK situation?

Despite a ban on E-Waste exports to developing countries, 1.3 million tonnes of undocumented goods are exported from the EU each year. In February, the UK was ranked as the worst offender in the EU (source) by the Basel Action Network.

Following the report’s findings, the Environment Agency closed four illegal waste operators in the UK. Illegal E-Waste operations are a serious issue and may have diverted as much as £1billion per annum from legitimate businesses. The UK Environment Agency has invested over £65m to help tackle this problem since 2011.

The UK produces 24.9kg of E-Waste per person, higher than the EU average of 17.7kg. Electronic waste in the UK is managed under the EU’s Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive and The Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Regulations 2013.

These are calculated based on the WEEE Directive’s target of 65% of the average annual weight of electrical and electronic equipment placed on the market over the previous three years. The target for 2019 has been set at 550,577 tonnes, a 12% increase on 2018 levels.

The UK missed its WEEE collection target by 45,000 tonnes in 2018. The UK Government launched an inquiry and concluded that as consumer demand rises, and costs decrease people are buying more electronic equipment and not recycling it correctly.

There are no actual official stats for e-waste that is collected in the UK only estimates. 

Awareness of education issues

One of the main issues surrounding E-Waste is awareness. Many people are unaware of how to dispose of it correctly, or that recycling should be the last thing you do with E-Waste.

While the general public may not fully aware of the growing issues with E-Waste but in recent years companies have been implementing processes to retain the precious metals from their own E-Waste. Some are creating machines to break down LCD TVs because manually taking it apart is too labour intensive.

New technology is designed each year but the technology to efficiently recycle new tech does not exist. The most important thing for an individual or company to take away from this blog is that recycling should be a last resort, components inside most electronic devices are reusable.

If you have an old phone like an Apple or Samsung, you can trade them in on the brands’ website. Even if your phone isn’t worth anything, they will often take it for free to reuse.

(The WEE Man is an art sculpture designed to raise awareness of E-Waste in the UK)

Disposing of Electronic Waste

If you have a computer such as a MacBook or Windows Desktop that is being replaced but is still working condition, then it could be sold or passed on to a charity or to a specialist company (hey that’s us!) that is able to refurbish it and sell it on.

If you have a large quantity of non-working kit, we can collect it from your premises and take it away for you. For smaller quantities, you could take it to a local recycling site. Most local authorities now have WEEE recycling schemes that will accept a wide variety of kit.

Safe Data Disposal

While it’s important that your business’s E-Waste is disposed of safely from a physical point of view, it’s also vital to deal with any data that it may contain. While it’s good to get rid of your old equipment, you don’t want to let your company’s and customer’s data go along with it.

Not only computers hold sensitive data

Remember that it isn’t only office computers that may contain sensitive data. If your company owns old external hard drives, these need to be erased before disposal too.

Don’t forget equipment such as routers that may contain the access settings for your network. On these, you should perform a factory reset to ensure that all your information is safely removed. The same applies to solid-state devices such as smartphones and tablets.

Remove any memory or SIM cards and perform a factory reset on the device before disposing of it. Here at LoopCR, we have data wiping servers so even if you don’t wipe your devices we will.

Any smart devices that have been set up to access your network – TVs, digital assistants, IP security cameras, etc – also need to have their memories reset so that you don’t inadvertently give away the address and passwords for your network.

The problem of E-Waste is only likely to get bigger in future, it’s therefore important for us as small businesses to ensure that we all do our bit to dispose of our old IT and electrical equipment safely and responsibly.

How we can help?

We provide free collections of all types of unwanted IT and electrical equipment for reuse or responsible recycling. All personal data is securely and professionally destroyed before either process begins, in compliance with the General Data Protection Regulations.

Common items we collect include:

  • Desktops
  • Laptops
  • Monitors
  • Printers
  • Keyboards and mice
  • Cables
  • UPS and UPS batteries

We can also collect some forms of non-IT equipment if advised in advance. Our service to customers in Kent and East Sussex is completely free.

What LoopCR will require in order to complete a collection:

  • Company/school name and address
  • Contact name
  • Phone number
  • Email address (in order to send documents)
  • Preferred date(s) for the collection to take place
  • An indication of the quantity/type of items we will be collecting

We will supply a Waste Transfer Note upon collection of the equipment. An inventory and Data Destruction Certificate will be sent via email within 48 hours to confirm the completion of secure professional wiping of all equipment.

Contact Us to arrange a free collection