E-Waste, Sustainability, and Our 2020 Impact on the Environment
E-waste is a serious problem.
E-waste is the name given to electronic products that are non-working, unwanted, or that have reached the end of their useful life. Laptops, desktops, televisions, stereos, copiers, keyboards, and smartphones are examples of electronic products that eventually become “e-waste.”
According to a UN report, less than 20% of e-waste is recycled, with 80% either ending up in a landfill or being “informally recycled,” much of it by hand in developing countries. When e-waste in disposed of in landfills, it contaminates the soil and groundwater, putting water sources and agriculture at risk. The problem is growing; global e-waste production is on track to reach 120 million tons per year by 2050.
Currently, just over half of the states have regulations around controlling or maintaining e-waste. The first state to pass e-recycling regulations was California, in 2003, and since then, 27 other states and the District of Columbia have done the same. That means that 22 states have no e-waste laws, leaving e-recycling and take-back programs to private companies, nonprofits, and/or local governments. New York was the first major city to ban electronics from garbage cans and set up its own e-waste collection program.
Some of the dangerous materials found in e-waste include:
- Chromium, found in circuit boards, switches and relays, is used to harden metal and protect it from corrosion. Chromium can cause DNA damage, and if it reaches the bloodstream, can cause kidney and liver failure.
- Beryllium, is found in motherboards and connectors, and inhaling beryllium dust can cause berylliosis, a pulmonary and systemic granulomatous disease.
- Cadmium is common in chip resistors, semi-conductors, cables and wires. Inhalation of cadmium dust can result in pneumonitis, pulmonary edema, and death.
- Mercury is used in circuit boards, switches and relays and can contaminate the environment through landfill disposal.
- Lead is found in older cathode-ray monitors and can be found in circuit boards.
MCPC considers e-waste a global environmental issue that requires immediate attention. We are committed to sustainability; In fact, it is one of our company Points of Pride and runs through every decision we make.
Technology can advance civilization, but it can leave behind a trail of e-waste that can have a very real impact of the health of our environment. Computer technology is also filled with company and personal information that presents a security risk if not properly destroyed.
Shockingly, 47% of organizations get rid of their IT assets by throwing them in the dumpster, and 60% of organizations have no strategy on how to dispose of their technology (Iron Mountain/IDG 2019.)
Businesses can no longer simply throw away their technology because of environmental and security considerations.
MCPC created the Secure Asset Disposition Center in 2018 to help mitigate the burden e-waste places on the environment and decrease the risk businesses face with the data stored on its end-of-life technology. Our ITAD facility is a specialized technology asset disposition center that takes in end-of-life technology and ensures all data on devices is erased or physically destroyed. After data is destroyed, processing follows a lifecycle approach that aligns with the EPA’s waste management hierarchy. Part of that approach is to reuse devices that still have life in them through remarketing. When a device is no longer functional, STAD dismantles components and recycles them, adhering to a strict zero landfill policy.
Our commitment to sustainability saved over $2M in resources in 2020, including:
- 21,527,919 kilowatt hours of energy – Enough to power 1,685 households for one year
- 13,979,749 kilograms of air emissions – That’s 13,980 metric tons
- 3,689,614 kilograms of greenhouse gas emissions – The same as removing 2,653 cars from the road
- 218,074 kilograms of solid waste
- 160,117 kilograms of water emissions – That’s 160 metric tons
- 33,014 kilograms of hazardous waste – Equivalent to the weight of 268 refrigerators
- 195.36 kilograms of toxic materials – The weight of 98 bricks
We are proud of these numbers but we also know they can be improved, and there’s still a lot of work to be done until every individual and every business is immune to data risk, and technology disposal does no harm to the environment. MCPC continues to be at the forefront of the technology sustainability movement.