Reducing e-waste not only conserves resources and keeps toxins out of the environment, it also saves money in waste management costs — and can help firms avoid costly compliance fees as a result of illegally storing or disposing of e-waste.
Machine Design offers five strategies to reduce e-waste. These include upgrading hardware or software instead of purchasing new devices, and selling or donating old electronics that still work.
Another tip the magazine suggests: know the locations of local electronics collection centers. Apple takes back its own products, while Staples and Best Buy accept a variety of used electronics and e-waste. Additionally, on its website, e-stewards.org, e-Stewards offers a “find a recycler” feature. The EPA also offers a search feature that determines if the product’s manufacturer will take back any given electronic item as well as offering mail-in options.
Companies can also minimize e-waste by buying products certified by the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT), a global electronics registry that rates mobile phones, televisions, printers, copiers and other imaging equipment, and computers and displays.
“It’s interesting to know that there is a continuing need to alert purchasers to the environmental impacts of electronics — and to see that once their awareness is raised, many are eager to find effective ways to act to reduce their impacts,” says Sarah O’Brien, director of global stakeholder engagement for the Green Electronics Council, the program manager for the EPEAT program. “Organizations often want to reduce the environmental impacts of their purchasing but are unsure how to proceed. By reaching out to offer guidance, we in the sustainable electronics community can empower purchasers to adopt EPEAT and reduce the impact of their IT operations.”
A new report produced by the Delta Institute, in consultation with the Green Electronics Council and the University of Illinois Survey Research Laboratory says companies’ purchasing decisions can play a key role in reducing e-waste.
When it comes to computers, printers, fax machines and other electronic office equipment, purchasing decisions are often not made with end-of-life disposition in mind. The report, Reducing E-waste through Purchasing Decisions, identifies opportunities and barriers for purchasing agents to include end-of-life decisions in the purchasing process and for asset managers to practice responsible recycling.
“By simply updating their purchasing policies to prioritize the purchase of EPEAT-certified electronics, private companies can make a big difference in increasing the recycling of electronic waste and keeping toxic material out of landfills,” says Margaret Renas, senior manager at Delta Institute.
Barriers to Responsible Electronics Purchasing, Recycling
The study concluded the two primary barriers to using best management practices for purchasing and recycling of electronics were (1) a lack of awareness around electronics purchasing and recycling certifications and registries, and (2) persistent negative perceptions around electronic certifications and registries.
To raise awareness and eliminate negative perceptions, Delta beta tested a live educational presentation and a video webinar. While the results from the webinar were inconclusive, Delta found the live presentation successfully raised awareness and dispelled negative perceptions about electronics registrations and certifications, thus encouraging their use.
Renas says organizations that manage electronic certification can take steps to overcome these barriers as well.
“While barriers do persist around low awareness and negative perception, we see a few steps that can be taken by the organizations that manage electronic certifications to overcome these barriers,” Renas says. “The certifying organizations could prioritize in-person education targeting private sector procurement decision-makers about the benefits and attributes of electronics certifications, and they could also engage in cross-promotional efforts with other certifying bodies. In addition, these certifications could be incorporated into existing sustainability incentives, such as LEED certification.”