Some newer legislation has been applied across the states and in parts of Canada that might change how the rest of the world handles product waste. And when it comes to the waste of electronic products, this extended producer responsibility (EPR) Bill could make new inroads for recyclers and ITAD companies to have direct access to manufacturers. But for your business it might make having ITAM inhouse even more complicated.
Making us responsible for our waste
Consumerism is rampant in this country. It could be argued that the 21st Century American exists to shop. And nothing exemplifies this more than how we line up like lemmings for the next iteration of smartphone. Unfortunately for the planet, this king of consumerism leaves an indelible mark on the eco-system—particularly with regard to our electronic devices.
In the shadow of this multi-billion-dollar industry, however, there are organizations and governmental bodies working toward closing the loop on this linear system of “make, use, dispose.” Plans like the EPR legislations, or like SB20 work toward making the realities of manufacturing electronics visible to the everyday consumer. And each of these, in their own way, is getting us one step closer to the circular economy our world desperately needs.
What do EPR and SB20 do, exactly?
The Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) is all about getting manufacturers to responsibly handle a portion of their production by weight. So, if a tablet manufacturer sells 400 pounds of tablets, they need to retrieve a percentage (usually only a fraction) of tablet products that are being disposed of. The SB20, on the other hand, tacks an additional “deposit” on to the consumers’ price tag when they purchase a device. This price (which varies depending on the device type) is then recouped when the consumer returns their product at the end of its usefulness.
Each of these plans seeks to add incentive to recycle, and—as is inevitable with business—the consumer winds up paying the price for the service. Even EPR, which puts the onus on the manufacturer to pay up, eventually wheedles its way into the consumer’s wallet when the manufacturer rolls EPR costs into their purchase price.
Unfortunately, EPR is not as effective at urging companies to take responsibility as other systems like fines and landfill bans. It seems that EPR doesn’t make as much a difference as these other things that make enterprises squirm. Which is why SB20 has more promise.
The reason we, at Sage, prefer SB20 over the EPR is that it puts the responsibility on the consumer outright—which is a great way to motivate consumers to take responsibility for their consumption. Instead of burying it in shipping costs, manufacturing logistics, or technology design (as is often done with the EPR), it openly calls this what it is: a waste fee, and it demands you pay that fee forward.
How EPR impacts your business
The SB20 is currently only in effect in California. However, nearly all states have been using EPR legislation of some kind since the 90s, with a rekindling of interest in them starting around 2010. EPR holds the manufacturer responsible, so manufacturers look to cut costs in other areas. Unfortunately, when this happens, recycling (already low on the totem pole) shoulders some of the biggest hits. And that means your internal ITAM program has to do more work to find good recyclers, or it could be unintentionally part of an international toxic-waste trade.
Taking the time and resources to sustainably recycle end-of-life IT assets can be a mire for small to medium-sized businesses, and enterprise offices—with the numbers of devices they retire—could face significant fines for negligent recycling practices. These are costs too great to ignore when our world is in the throes of embracing a circular economy. EPR and SB20 are great tools to wake up the average consumer, but when it comes to your ITAM program, they may do more harm than good.
Outsourcing ITAM acts as a mediator
Rather than scrapping the well-meaning and potentially beneficial legislation, consider the value in using a trusted ITAM partner. The legislation stays in effect and its ramifications curb the greater community away from the upgrade treadmill that is largely the cause of our world’s e-waste problems, while your end-of-life devices find good homes elsewhere. Either as donated goods to schools and organizations in need, harvested for viable elements to return to the IT ecosystem, or responsibly recycled to go back to into the resource chain.
This blend of legislation and conscientious ITAM is the only way we can change the course of our consumer bent. As the population continues to grow, our rate of consumption will only increase. And, unless we go circular with our economy of consumption, we will strip this world of her resources far too soon.
But there’s another good reason to outsource this service—especially if your business is growing. A good ITAM company has protocols in place for dealing with end-of-life products in a sustainable and conscientious way. This, in turn, often leads to recapturing some revenue back for your business—something your internal IT team likely has never done. It’s clear when dealing with sustainable recycling that pushing circular, by nature, will benefit all those who take part in the economy. So, the big question becomes: where are you in the conversation?