One of the many concerns that comes with recycling e-waste is the alchemy that happens when those toxic materials are put in a shredder. Not the least of these effects is the potential for explosions to occur. But, as is typical with Sage’s approach to ITAD (IT Asset Disposition), we have more concern about good electronic devices being recycled in the first place.
Being a good steward has its advantages
We often praise e-Steward certification on this blog because of its sustainability, but there is another reason to choose a recycler with this hefty certification: human safety. Exploding batteries are just the beginning when it comes to hazards within the recycling industry. Things like toner explosions and lead exposure are just as much a detriment to safety as battery fires—even more so in the respect that the damage they do is less obvious.
e-Steward certification requires the utmost safety and ongoing lead tests. These tests are invaluable since even NIOSH standards can miss trace elements like lead as it becomes particulate matter in the shredding process. Our own CEO was actually present at e-Stewards several years ago when NIOSH tested some of the best recyclers and found lead contaminating the offices and even the homes of every single one of their workers.
Downstream contamination still hurts business
No matter where you are in the industry—whether a corporation looking to retire end-of-life equipment, a recycler doing the disposition, or anywhere in between—worker safety and overall employee management is indisputable. Even massive companies like Apple and Nike go to great lengths to ensure the entire ecosystem pertaining to their products is as risk-free as possible.
Of course, conflict minerals and e-waste problems will be issues that crop up within a larger company’s footprint until permanent solutions against those things can be made, but heaven and earth get moved when it comes to employee safety. When you realize that e-Stewards is likely the only way to protect recyclers from hazards that even NIOSH can miss, then it’s an obvious investment well made.
Remove the problem to reduce its effects
This post wouldn’t be complete without calling out how sustainability can help employee safety. The most sustainable way to handle end-of-life electronics is to avoid recycling altogether. Recycling should always be the last resort, but is often called upon because we typically underestimate intrinsic value.
Not only does sidestepping recycling eliminate the recycler’s dilemma of exploding devices, but it makes good business sense as well. As it is, moving to recycling for any reason is leaving money on the table that could be captured through reselling, refurbishing, redeployment, and even donating.
Each of these alternatives to recycling has its own rewards, many of which are monetary. And with a sustainable IT Asset Disposition (ITAD) or IT Asset Management (ITAM) partner by your side, you can ensure that you capture all those rewards as well as making your ecosystem completely free from recycler hazards.