Today, businesses everywhere are beginning to think long and hard about their environmental impact. Whether it’s manufacturing more sustainable products, delivering eco-conscious services, or simply reducing the waste generated in the office on a daily basis, the push to go green is stronger than ever before. Sustainable business is now very much in vogue, and both business leaders and consumers are waking up to the environmental, economic, and ethical benefits it can bring.
However, when it comes to the 21st century office, there’s one overwhelmingly unsustainable element common to almost all companies. Technology. Every office is now stacked high with devices of all kinds, from computers and printers to state-of-the-art IoT devices and, of course, smartphones and the lithium-ion batteries used to power almost everything. Technology may be bringing us closer, but the huge amount of e-waste generated by our tech obsession is among the defining issues of our age—with an estimated 6.9 million tons of e-waste generated in the US in 2016.
Not only is the number of devices rising fast, but the challenges surrounding e-waste recycling are not easily solved. Toxic elements and complex recycling requirements mean much of our e-waste is never recycled at all. Additionally, the rate at which devices become obsolete is putting huge strains on existing recycling systems. So, for every office striving for sustainability the question remains, how do you manage and recycle e-waste effectively? Here, we take a look at how you can boost your office’s sustainability credentials using the three R—reduce, reuse, recycle.
Reduction is always the most preferable option in the fight against any type of waste. However, when it comes to technology, it can sometimes be difficult to identify how to reduce the number of devices and pieces of equipment within the office environment. The key is to ensure that all equipment is used to its full potential, and anything left to gather dust is sent on to a better home before being thrown out. Always ask yourself (and employees), whether an upgrade to the latest piece of tech is necessary or just desired.
Other ways you can reduce e-waste in the office is to go paperless (or minimize the need for printers), ensure rechargeable batteries are used wherever possible, and to move more of your computing infrastructure to the cloud. Today, as cloud technology continues to develop, we’re less reliant on in-house devices than ever before, so ensure your business takes advantage of it the next time you consider upgrading.
Then Reuse or Repair
Reusing older devices and repairing broken devices are a close second in the waste management hierarchy. Reusing things such as refillable printer cartridges, rechargeable batteries (again), and any other equipment that may not be up to the daily task of office life, yet can be used elsewhere, is critical. Another important thing to think about is repair—thousands of devices are discarded every year which, apart from say a broken touchscreen or dead battery, are otherwise perfectly serviceable.
Additionally, ensure that any equipment that is not in use but still working is donated. This is particularly important in the fast-paced world of business, where often, the latest technology is required to keep pace with the competition. Whenever upgrading computers, servers, smartphones or any other device, ensure old equipment is donated so they can be reused elsewhere.
Remember, recycling e-waste is difficult and expensive. Recycling should, in fact, be your last option after you’ve exhausted both reduction and reuse or repair. However, if equipment or consumables are no longer of any use at all, then there are a few ways to ensure they are recycled effectively.
For businesses that have large amounts of e-waste to dispose of, say a bank of servers or computer monitors, then on-demand collections from local waste management companies will allow you to easily organize transportation while also ensuring your e-waste is delivered to the correct facilities. For smaller amounts of waste, then many municipalities will offer designated collection points—simply contact your local authority to find out where and what types of e-waste are accepted.