How your enterprise can help reduce e-waste

Apple is quadrupling the extent of its iPhone recycling scheme, but what can your business do to help?

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In an effort to help with the huge e-waste problem, Apple now offers a global recycling scheme. In the U.S., it has quadrupled the extent of the program by putting Daisy recycling robots in Best Buy stores across the country.

The same machine is also being put in KPN stores in the Netherlands.

In a press release, the company states:

“Apple has received nearly 1 million devices through Apple programs and each Daisy can disassemble 1.2 million devices per year. In 2018, the company refurbished more than 7.8 million Apple devices and helped divert more than 48,000 metric tons of electronic waste from landfills.”

Apple says each Daisy robot can disassemble 15 different iPhone models at 200 units per hour. Clearly there is some way to go: Apple sells these things at a rate of around 395 units per minute, according to this site.

Apple also offers part exchange and recycling/take back schemes at its retail stores. AT&T, Best Buy, Dell, HP, LG, MRM, Samsung, Sony, Staples, Sprint, and T-Mobile offer similar schemes. It’s always worth checking the website of your device manufacturer for information concerning any scheme they support.

How can enterprise IT help?

The consumer electronics industry is at last attempting to make it easier to return and recycle products, though (as Apple’s own data shows) there’s still a gulf between the number of devices sold and those eventually recycled.

This gulf will only increase.

In part that’s because the number of ways in which we use electronic devices is increasing exponentially, but also because so many tech firms manufacture products that have limited usable lives or limit the security and software support they offer to older devices, if they support them at all.

It also reflects a reluctance among many consumers to let go of devices once they are no longer used.

The average U.S. household has $265 worth of unused gadgets tucked away in boxes and drawers around the home, according to Flipsy.

Many enterprises keep old equipment piled up at the back of stockroom or reach deals with recycling firms that may not be all they claim to be.

Recycle responsibly

The Basel Action Network (BAN) claims 40% of e-waste given to recyclers is not disposed of appropriately.

Old electronics may be illegally dumped, thrown into landfills, hacked for data, or recycled in unsafe conditions.

In some cases, they are shipped illegally to other countries where they are recycled in unsafe environments, subjecting poorly paid workers to serious disease. This article provides a good overview of many of these problems.

There are schemes that may help enterprise users choose legitimate recycling schemes. BAN runs the e-Stewards recycling certification scheme that helps enterprises find recycling centers that can be trusted.

Another body, Sustainable Electronics, runs the R2 recycling certification scheme, which also aims to ensure quality, transparency, and environmental and social responsibility of recycling operations.

The U.S. EPA holds a list of accredited electronics recycling firms that have either e-Steward or R2 certification, which you can take a look at here.

Sell or give them away

Apple said it was able to refurbish and sell 7.8 million Apple devices that were returned for recycling in 2018.

There’s a good business in second-user electronics devices, and online firms such as Flipsy can help people attempting to dispose of older systems that may still be useful to others profitably and securely.

The thing is, many enterprises may already have written off the cost of the devices they choose to recycle, and yet there may still be people, groups and organizations who could make use of those products.

It’s possible some enterprises may choose to donate their old equipment to organizations such as Computers with Causes, Vision-Aid, or the World Computer Exchange.

Analyze existing arrangements

It’s not such a preposterous suggestion.

Enterprise IT can look deeply at the environmental impact of the products it deploys in order to prioritize highly power-efficient and environmentally-friendly solutions. The Guide to Greener Electronics may be a useful starting point when beginning the purchasing process.

Socially responsible enterprises should certainly avoid deploying equipment that uses harmful chemicals, such as mercury, PVC, and arsenic, unless absolutely necessary.

Not only are these chemicals hazardous across the manufacturing chain, but they also pose problems (and additional expense) when it comes to recycling at the end of the product’s life.

Enterprises may also want to consider Energy Star and EPEAT status for products when they invest in new equipment.

It seems quite probable that IT equipment manufacturers would take bigger steps to provision better recycling schemes and more responsible manufacturing processes if enterprise buyers were to demand it more forcefully.

Reinvention

Apple is investing in a new Material Recovery Lab that will seek new technologies and processes for future recycling processes.

Based in Texas, this facility is exploring how robotics and machine learning can help improve existing recycling methods and develop fresh recycling solutions.

“Advanced recycling must become an important part of the electronics supply chain, and Apple is pioneering a new path to help push our industry forward,” said Lisa Jackson, Apple’s vice president of Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives.

As another part of this work, Apple is supporting The Recycling Partnership, a body that invests in new processes and works with enterprises and communities in order to improve and develop local and national recycling initiatives.

It’s possible that enterprise IT can join forces with schemes of this kind to develop personalized recycling and disposal schemes for their e-waste.

Happy Earth Day

Earth Day takes place on April 22.

If you or your enterprise happen to be iOS-based, then you should check the App Store because the company will be featuring a range of apps and games that improve awareness around environmental responsibility.

Please follow me on Twitter, or join me in the AppleHolic’s bar & grill and Apple Discussions groups on MeWe.

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