Computer Waste is Becoming a Growing Problem

April 28, 2011

Chances are that most computer waste would end up in landfills if it were not for the WEEE directives implemented in the UK. These directives specify recycling and proper disposal of old electrical appliances that have hazardous gasses like refrigerators, freezers or air conditioning units, but they also govern recycling and disposal of electronics, including computer waste from PCs, laptops and old monitors.

Why computer waste is a problem

  • Computers generally have an expected lifespan of only three to five years before becoming obsolete.
  • It is estimated that the average PC has more than a hundred toxins and poisonous chemicals, including lead, arsenic and cadmium.
  • If computer waste is not properly disposed of these toxins and chemicals can affect the environment and even leak into our water supplies.

Computer waste is a global problem

If you consider the global problem of computer waste, it is obvious why we need to recycle and ensure proper disposal of these electronics and electrical appliances. While the WEEE directives were not implemented until 2007 in the UK, the United States has tracked these statistics on a longer term basis.

It is estimated that 18% of computer waste is now being recycled in the United States, but this is up from the 5% statistic just a few years ago. When you consider there are 250,000,000 people in the US and a large proportion use a computer at home or work, it is estimated that at least 10% of them per year will become obsolete, creating tons of e-waste.

Computer waste in the UK

With the WEEE directives, the UK can save space in landfills and protect the environment. When  computer waste ends up in landfills, it is possible that harmful chemicals can contaminate the ground water table through leaching. The Environment Agency has licensed certain waste carriers to safely recycle or dispose of these old computer systems. In addition, they are trained in data wiping, asset tracking and proper breakdown of these systems, if they are unable to be refurbished and used by others.

There are some people that plan to sell their old computer systems and believe they have completely wiped their data from the hard drive, but this is not always the case. In fact, there are several steps involved to completely get rid of this information, yet there are those that think a single re-formatting is enough.

Those that are adept in hacking computer systems can use sophisticated processes to retrieve this information, so you don’t want your old computers to end up in the wrong hands. Those that are specially trained in data wiping can ensure it is done properly or your hard disk can be shredded and accompanied by a certificate of destruction. Professionals in computer waste or e-waste recycling and disposal can best advise you, for your particular situation.

For businesses and consumers that plan computer replacement, it is important that you properly destroy your data and recycle or dispose of your equipment correctly. Not only can this save space in the landfill and help the environment, but your computer system can live a second life through refurbishment or harvesting and recycling of components or parts that may be re-usable. You can become part of the solution to rather than the problem of computer waste.

Find out about how Recycling Your IT  can help with your computer waste in Essex, Suffolk, Herts and London.