eWEEK Readers Dump Killer e-Waste


Many readers knowingly send old tech to the developing world. Next: tell us your office IT woes

While lots of eWEEK readers are disposing of their old IT equipment safely, a large number either don’t monnitor what happens to it, or knowingly see it go to the developing world for recycling.

The fate of old IT equipment is a crucial issue, because it contains both toxic  and valuable materials, but a poll of eWEEK readers shows a disappointing lack of control. While 26 percent use private recycling firms to dispose of old kit, a greater number either don’t know what happens to it, or knowingly send it off to countries where reprocessing will cost people their lives.

Pissed off with WEEE

Twenty percent of eWEEK readers admitted they do not know what happens to their e-waste, and another 14 percent actually admitted that their company was allowing waste to go to third world recycling sites.

Developing nations have little regard for health and safety, and the processing of toxic materials in these places is claiming lives, according to Greenpeace.

“I am gutted to hear that 20 percent of the eWEEK respondents have no idea, but I think the 13 percent ‘third world dumping’ figure reflects a deeper concern shared by CIOs and CTOs that there is very little credible transparency provided our suppliers,” said Catalina McGregor a Green ICT advisor to the UK government, now working with the UN ITU-T.

“We are still receiving video footage and photos of ICT equipment not being properly treated and the abuse of human life and exploitative labour on the ground is distressing,” said McGregor This all boils down to inadequate International standards and contractual service level agreements lacking specific upfront language regarding environmental re-use and disposal”.

The European WEEE (waste electrical and electronic equipment) directive is widely seen as powerless, as the means to enforce it are lacking. Repair house Comtek is launching a campaign today to encourage more people to reuse their equipment or pass it on to others through proper refurbishment.

Other options for disposal include giving the old kit to charity (nine percent), letting it go to landfill (10 percent) or using council recycling (eight percent).

“There are many charities that will take in donations of computers, data wipe them and refurbish them free of charge, so it really makes no sense at all why companies would knowingly choose to illegally dump their equipment,” said Anja Ffrench, director of marketing and communications at Computer Aid International.

At the bottom comes eBay. The benefits of realising some cash are clearly outweighed for most people by the risk of data getting into the wrong hands.

Next – tell us your office IT pains

Our next survey is even more down to earth than e-waste. We want you to tell us what the biggest price pain is about your office IT.

Blatant overcharging for toner and other supplies might top your list, even if the amount concerned is comparatively small. Alternatively, you might feel that, despite the massive empowerment of mobile data, its costs are still too high, especially when you consider the continued high price of roaming abroad.

Other options we’ve given you are the costs of repair and replacement to your laptop fleet, and online support, or the undetermined costs incured by people wasting time or dealing with necessary unproductive tasts.

But, as always, the “Other” option is there for you to tell us what options we neglected to include.

We can’t actually help directly with any of the pain you tell us about, but we’re sure you will feel better for clicking on our survey and getting it off your chest.

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