These days, technology changes at the speed of light, which means more electronic products will continue to become obsolete long before their expiration date comes.
These rapid advances in technology have accelerated the amount of surplus electronics that businesses have to deal with, which becomes a growing challenge as they search for ways to reuse, recycle or properly dispose of this equipment.
To meet this challenge, the employees or departments responsible for handling electronic waste should be aware of a few things to make sure your company is going down the right path.
Here at Surplus Service, an award-winning e-waste recycling company in the San Francisco Bay Area, we’ve found that the reuse path avoids recycling as much as possible and keeps old electronics out of the landfill period. How can you achieve the same goal? It’s all about perspective.
Too often, used electronics are disposed of as trash because it’s the easy thing to do—but that doesn’t make it the right thing to do. In 2003, California passed the Electronic Waste Recycling Act, making us the first state to provide convenient opportunities for everyone to properly manage unwanted electronics. As a result, the law provided a monetary incentive for both manufacturers and consumers to recycle their used electronics. However, the biggest bounty goes to recycling companies, who are paid by the pound for every electronic item they recycle. Whether the items are working or not, recycling companies often grind those assets down into raw materials, which isn’t the most environmentally friendly solution.
Upcycling, the practice of reusing items as an alternative to trash and recycling, is the best solution for handling surplus electronics. Every business can accomplish this goal by keeping in mind a few best practices.
Figure out the difference between what counts as waste vs. recycling. You have two ways to determine this, according to the California Department of Toxic Substances Control. If the electronics are not reusable, then they must be recycled. If the electronics are broken, obsolete or have no value, then they aren’t considered trash and can be recycled.
See a pattern here? If the electronic equipment includes metals, plastic or glass, chances are there is an e-waste solution.
It’s also good to know whether you’re dealing with electronic devices such as circuit boards or electronic equipment such as toasters and coffee makers. Gadgets such as circuit boards are manufactured in a very complicated way, so a special process has to be used to extract the precious metals and other toxic e-waste from the devices. According to the EPA, these types of electronics often contain small amounts of plastic, which can be turned into artwork, artificial wood and construction materials.
Probably the most important thing to keep in mind is where to send your e-waste. Fortunately, in California, there are a number of electronic recycling companies. The trusted ones are listed on the CalRecycle website, including companies such as Surplus Service. The beauty of working with one of these companies is that you can arrange to have your e-waste picked up, often for free.
If you don’t do anything else, make sure your company is dealing with a collector that knows how to handle surplus electronics properly. It’s always best to look for a collector that takes a holistic closed loop approach to repairing and reusing electronic equipment. An e-waste recycling company that knows what they’re doing will also maintain records that track outgoing shipments of e-waste. Since we started using the closed loop method, we’ve been able to reuse about 85% of the surplus equipment from our clients. Only 15% of the e-waste gets recycled while close to 0% of our e-waste ends up in landfills or illegally exported to a foreign country. We have reused millions of untold pounds of electronics, saving them from being recycling and taken to landfills.