April 22 is designated each year as “Earth Day,” a day set aside to focus on protecting our environment in a variety of ways. I am involved in an “Adopt a Highway” program in my area, where twice each year, in April (around Earth Day) and again in September, we pick up trash along several local roadways. You would be amazed at what some people think it is OK to throw out their windows or dump along the road! While most of us realize that it is wrong to throw garbage onto the roadside, many people and businesses may not follow that same thought process when it comes to disposing of their used electronic devices.
The damage that can be wrought on the environment from electronic waste (e-waste) that is not handled properly is multi-faceted. The World Health Organization (WHO) details just a few of the problems: Poor recycling techniques, such as burning cables for retaining the inherent copper, releases toxins into the air. E-waste-connected health risks may also result from direct contact with harmful materials such as lead, cadmium, and mercury. An accumulation of chemicals in soil, water and food can give rise to a number of toxic by-products likely to affect both the environment and human health. Add to that the ongoing issue of landfills full to overflowing, and the scope of the problem begins to take shape. (who.int)
However, the components of electronic devices are nearly all recyclable, including metals, plastics, and glass. According to The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), recycling one million laptops save the energy equivalent of what is used by more than 3500 U.S. homes in a year! And for every one million cell phones that are recycled, 35 thousand pounds of copper, 772 pounds of silver, 75 pounds of gold, and 33 pounds of palladium can be recovered. (epa.gov) Recycling e-waste rather than disposing of it is a win-win situation, beneficial both to the environment and the economy.
What are some ways that you or your business can safely handle e-waste? First and foremost, before destroying any electronic device, be absolutely certain that all data has been thoroughly wiped with no recoverable remnants remaining. Once there is complete assurance of data removal, the remaining components must be handled in a way that is environmentally sound. Documentation should be provided detailing the secure handling of the device at each step of the process. The best way to ensure that all of these needs are being met is to utilize a company that is NAID (National Association for Information Destruction) AAA Certified. The NAID certification program establishes standards for a secure destruction process including such areas as operational security, employee hiring and screening, the destruction process, responsible disposal and insurance. (naidonline.org)
Another feature of a company that is environmentally conscious is the Responsible Recycling (R2) certification. R2 is the leading standard for electronics repair and recycling. The R2 Standard provides a common set of processes, safety measures, and documentation requirements for businesses that repair and recycle used electronics. R2 is rigorously and independently audited, emphasizing quality, safety, and transparency. (sustainableelectronics.com)
If you or your business are committed to ensuring that no electronic equipment ever ends up in a landfill, and if minimizing your carbon footprint is important, then find a company to handle your destruction and disposal needs that is either NAID AAA Certified, or R2 Certified. Better yet, a company that holds both of these certifications can provide you with the peace of mind that you are doing all you can to safeguard personal information and protect the environment, not only on Earth Day but every day.
“The proper use of science is not to conquer nature, but to live in it.” — Barry Commoner
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