January of 2018 was a historic moment, even if most of us haven’t realized it yet. It was the deadline for when China decided to stop receiving our garbage (we made a post about it, here). Well, now over 400 days later, it seems the ramifications of saying “no” to US trash is reaching critical stages. Soon, we will either run out of suckers who willingly destroy their communities on our behalf, or reckoning will finally come to the US for not being more responsible with our consumption. Either way, what you do today with your IT Asset Disposition (ITAD) will determine how you fare when that day eventually comes.
Addressing the real cause
Our problem is not that China won’t take our waste—that was merely symptomatic. The real issue is we, as American businesses and consumers, disregard the intrinsic value of our devices so much that we recycle them at the earliest convenience, and at the lowest cost possible. This has created a glut of e-waste over the past two decades that many recyclers shipped overseas to eke out a profit.
To address this misdiagnosis, American businesses need to take responsibility for their IT assets for longer than just the time they are in service. These devices still have plenty of value, even if they’ve reached End-of-Life (EOL) for most companies. And if they truly are past repair or resale potential, then paying the extra pennies it takes to responsibly recycle electronic waste should be top priority for your company.
Ripples in the tide of waste
China turned us away largely because of their own waste concerns. But in so doing, another thing has occurred that will spell certain doom for our country. Other countries have begun following suit and closing their trade routes for our waste, further reinforcing the reality that we have too much waste.
If anything, any shockwave we are feeling should serve as a wake-up call that we typically don’t place value where it should go. For example: businesses who would like to think they’re being green allow this single-stream recycling to continue because they are not willing to pay to have it recycled responsibly. Or, they are shortsighted to the potential these devices have beyond their business’s immediate use for them.
But we have seen over and over again that a good ITAD program minimizes waste by extending the life of the devices your business uses, in finding better uses for EOL devices, and even, in some cases, helping your business source used equipment to fill needs at a lower cost. These programs, along with an e-Stewards certification to officiate them, allow companies to handle their IT assets in a sustainable way—which will eliminate their involvement in this waste tsunami that’s coming.