Your business may thrive on new technology, but its e-waste may leave problems for the generations to come. Have you ever considered how improperly discarded computers, printers, and other electronic devices create a mountain of high-tech garbage?
Lower prices and rising incomes are driving more technology into the supply chain—and creating e-waste at the other end. According to a joint study by the UN University, the International Telecommunications Union, and the International Solid Waste Association, this digital detritus reached a record 45 million tons worldwide in 2016, up 8 percent from 2014. This digital junk pile contains toxic metals, such as copper, and when relatively small amounts are recycled, much of it makes its way into landfills, where toxins could leach into the water supply.
Discarded products may even end up in faraway nations, like China and India, where low-paid workers endanger themselves recycling the equipment, often in environmentally unsafe ways. For example, slow-burning, an unsophisticated way of recycling electronics, creates poisonous dioxins, which leak into the atmosphere.
Wake up and start doing your part
Why should you care? After all, IT teams won’t be penalized for dumping old waste in the garbage along with everything else. But aside from just being the right thing to do environmentally, managing waste output is also related to a critical cultural component that’s becoming increasingly important to businesses everywhere: social responsibility.
Today’s young tech talent loves responsible employers. The UN’s Principles for Responsible Management Education initiative conducts a biannual global study on the attitudes of business students, and more than 90 percent said they were willing to sacrifice a percentage of their future salary to work for a responsible employer who cared about environmental sustainability.
Investors are also impressed by socially responsible firms. A study from MIT Sloan Management Review and the Boston Consulting Group found that 75 percent of senior executives in investment firms see sustainability as materially important in their investment decisions. These findings should make one conclusion clear for your business: If you can’t do it for the planet, do it for your bottom line.
Reduce your e-waste with a few simple steps
What can you do to manage your technology waste more effectively? Start by viewing this task as part of an overall equipment lifecycle. In its action plan for environmental sustainability and office printing, HP outlines several measures to take before, during, and after you buy equipment, including:
- Go digital: By digitizing your business, you can reduce the need to handle paper-based printing while increasing efficiency and security in your document and data workflows.
- Assess printer usage: Secondly, audit your current printer portfolio. Work out how many printers you have, identify their types, and measure their output. How many people use them, and how heavily? With the help of HP’s Managed Print Services, you may find ways to consolidate your printer fleet and use each device more efficiently across the organization.
- Buy greener: Armed with this information, you’ll also want to think carefully about whether you need a new printer when it reaches the end of its lifecycle. Consider how you can produce a leaner, greener printing portfolio by investing in multifunction printers, such as HP’s A3 series, which use fewer materials compared to stand-alone products and combine multiple functions (scanning, printing, and copying) into one device.
- Print smarter: As you update your company’s printers, set new usage policies to reduce e-waste. One environmentally friendly tip is to set automatic duplexing to reduce your consumables output.
- Recycle: Across Canada, provinces have regulated funding for recycling electronics: Manufacturers must collect a provincial environmental fee for designated electronic devices sold in most provinces, so the practice of proper recycling has essentially been paid for already. Recycling your equipment reduces some of the environmental impact it accrues during its lifecycle, too, so why not explore following through on this option?
Additionally, HP offers Canadian business customers an e-waste recycling program, along with options to trade in older equipment that will go toward the purchase of a new HP solution. Its asset recovery service also enables business customers to remarket unneeded assets for cash back. When it comes to recycling printer cartridges, you can drop them off at retail outlets or send them to HP, who uses plastic from recycled cartridges and other materials to create new cartridges.
The answer to your e-waste problem lies not just in disposal but in decisions made earlier on in the purchasing cycle. By driving a greener approach to technology into these other stages of your business, you can help to reduce your company’s total digital footprint and make the world a greener place while staying profitable and productive.