By Mike Watson , Director of Dell Take Back Programs
If consumers and organizations have been reluctant to recycle their outdated computers in the past, we can hardly blame them. Data destruction is a critical issue, and until now the only standards recyclers followed were the ones they imposed on themselves. But this month, the EPA is recommending certified performance standards for recyclers, and it’s up to electronics manufacturers to lead the way in making it as routine to responsibly dispose of computers as it is to recycle empty bottles and cans.
The new standards EPA is recommending are rigorous enough to prompt businesses and individuals to take their out-of-date equipment out of storage facilities and basements without worry. Certified computer equipment recyclers are now required to scrub data from hard disks, remove all identifying labels, and supply companies with verification and tracking numbers so they can be confident that no sensitive data or markings have survived the process.
But as with all steps forward in preserving our planet, organizations can decide to exceed government guidelines, and they should. Electronics manufacturers can design their products with disassembly and near-100% asset recovery in mind, and they can make it as easy as possible for their customers to recycle equipment that’s at the end of its useful life.
That takes some doing. When Dell became the first manufacturer to recycle any product with our name on it for free in 2005, we had to create a recycling infrastructure from scratch. At first we established a pickup program, but to make the process even easier we formed a partnership with Goodwill to accept equipment at their locations across the U.S. and Canada, and trained their employees to disassemble and reclaim the materials properly. Knowing we’ll recycle our own products has transformed our design process, which streamlines material recovery and keeps refuse to an absolute minimum.
Electronics manufacturers who make this kind of commitment can have an enormous impact. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, over 150 million pieces of computer-related e-waste end up in our landfills every year. Those are pieces of e-waste that could be reused in new buildings or products. Now that certified third-party recyclers’ performance can be measured, recyclable material won’t go to waste. It’s up to electronics manufacturers to make it happen.
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