With the current global waste crisis we’re experiencing, you’ve more than likely heard the phrase: “Reduce, reuse, and recycle.” In fact, for recyclers this phrase is known as the waste hierarchy. These terms designate three essential components of environmentally-responsible behavior and are listed in the order of preferred action from least harmful to most harmful for the environment. This might sound strange for some, as many of us tend to think of recycling as being one of the best practices for waste management. However, there is an acknowledged hierarchy of waste management and some devices seem to fall into grey areas, it can be hard deciding on which method is the most efficient practice to use.
There are actually about 5 electronic waste management options in the hierarchy:
- Reuse of whole units: Reuse functioning electronic equipment by donating it to someone who can still use it
- Repair/refurbishment/remanufacturing of units
- Recovery/reuse of functional peripherals or components
- Recycling of constituent materials: Recycle those components that cannot be repaired
- And lastly, responsible disposal of hazardous and non-hazardous waste in permitted landfills
While reducing is obviously environmentally friendly, it is not always possible. For example, consumers tend to have one smartphone, one laptop and one printer for personal use. Trying to reduce this number isn’t much of an option in this case. Therefore, we’re typically left trying to decide between reusing and recycling our old devices. Both play a role in providing a healthy recycling hierarchy.
Reusing electronics is typically the better option for the environment than recycling due to the reuse process consuming few natural resources. Furthermore, reuse allows devices and products to be released back in the consumer market more quickly than recycling can allow for components to be upcycled. Electronic reuse is possible at two levels:
- Reuse outside the waste stream by repairing a damaged item and reselling to function as it was originally intended. For example, a fully intact smartphone
- Reuse within the waste stream, in which the individual components are harvested for reuse in other products. For example, a RAM or video card that can be extracted out of a discarded pieces of technology.
However, consumers run the risk of data security threats if sensitive data has been left on the device before being handed to a different party for reuse. The best way to ensure that your information is not compromised, is to find a reputable or certified vendor who will wipe the data cleanly off the device. HOBI International, who is an R2/RIOS and ISO 14001 certified vendor, offers data security and erasure services to help consumers protect their data and get unwanted devices off their hands.
Data security is important because hard drives that are not properly erased before a computer is disposed of can be used to extract sensitive information such as credit card numbers, financial data, account information and transaction records. Stolen data can have two victims: the person whose data was stolen and the company whose reputation is harmed by not making sure data was securely wiped before disposing of assets.
If you’re still worried your data could be compromised, then we suggest looking into recycling options. Despite this process still using data erasure operations, the devices would be dismantled for parts – which would mean that it would be harder for malicious actors to try and retrieve your data.
Recycling may be lower in the electronic waste management hierarchy, but the process can is still a very eco-friendly option when compared to dumping electronics in landfills. Recycling recovers valuable materials from old electronics that can be used to make new products. As a result, we save energy, reduce pollution, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and save resources by extracting fewer raw materials from the earth. Furthermore, recycling e-waste can help create jobs. eCycling creates jobs for professional recyclers and refurbishers and creates new markets for the valuable components that are dismantled. By recycling, you can help save landfill space.
HOBI International is an industry-leading ITAD service provider and can help enterprises of all sizes economically and environmentally deal with their electronic waste.
The best way to avoid any undesirable issues in the reuse or recycling process is to deal with a reputable recycler who is certified. By choosing this route, a consumer or business will also avoid the problem of an unscrupulous recycler who promises to recycle your item but instead ships it off to someone else who may steal the data or sell it for reuse without properly wiping the data.