You probably are a pro when it comes to recycling office waste. You know how to segregate materials like cans, plastic bottles, printer paper, and old newspapers. But what about old computers, printers, and other electronics? Referred to as office electronic waste or e-waste, these materials need special handling.
What’s the Problem with E-Waste?
You might think that office e-waste is harmless. That’s because you only see what’s outside – the computer monitor that you no longer use or the old TV set that was replaced with a smart, high-definition one.
You probably don’t consider what’s inside: hazardous materials such as mercury, beryllium, cadmium, lead, arsenic, and brominated flame retardants. If mishandled incorrectly and exposure occurs, these elements can cause neurological damage, organ damage, and other severe illnesses.
Does E-Waste Affect the Environment?
Just as it can make humans extremely ill, electronic waste also severely impacts the environment. The US alone generated approximately 6.9 million tons of office e-waste in 2016. Most of this probably goes into the trash. E-waste makes up only 2 percent of the debris in landfills but contributes more than two-thirds of heavy metal waste.
Impact on water. Lead, lithium, mercury, barium, and other heavy metals can be found in computer batteries and mobile phones. These contaminants can leak into the soil and eventually reach the groundwater. So, waste materials containing heavy metals should be handled properly and not disposed of in a landfill.
Impact on the soil. Toxic heavy metals and chemicals from office e-waste enter the soil-crop-food pathway. This contaminates the soil, which makes the farmland not viable for producing clean and safe food. These chemicals are also not biodegradable, increasing the risk of exposure by humans and animals to these toxins.
How Can I Reduce My Office E-Waste?
Building electronic devices takes a lot of energy – from creating plastic parts to mining the materials and resources. Here are a few steps you can take to ensure that you do not create more e-waste than necessary.
1. Change how you buy devices.
Buy computers and other equipment from companies that have end-of-life management plans for the products that they manufacture. Some companies will take them back to be recycled. If you can’t find such a company for every device you buy, make sure whatever you get will not just end up in a landfill. Reading about your local recycling laws usually helps.
2. Re-evaluate before you buy
Think first before you buy if you really need that extra device. Rather than buying multiple products with mostly single functions, find one gadget that can do multiples tasks. This will help minimize your e-waste as well as help you save a few bucks.
3. Buy eco-friendly products
When buying electronics, you should always look for products with the Energy Star label. You can also choose devices that are certified by the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT). EPEAT-registered products meet environmental criteria that address end-of-life management, materials selection, energy conservation, and product longevity.
4. Repair or upgrade your equipment
Do you have electronic devices that are running into some issues? Don’t be so quick to get rid of them. Try to see if you can repair them before you throw them away. A repair could save you money from buying a new device. It would stop you from adding to the volume of electronic waste that your office is creating.
Upgrading can also help in reducing your electronic scrap. Additional memory, software upgrades, or new hard drives can make your old electronics work faster and more efficiently. So, there’s no need for you to throw them away.
5. Protect your electronics
Buy a keyboard protector for your laptop or a case for your mobile phone. Keep your devices clean, and do not overcharge the battery. All of this will extend the life of your gadgets.
6. Donate old devices
Old products that no longer suit your purposes can find a new home somewhere. For example, you just recently replaced your copy machine for something faster and more efficient. You can donate the old one to a church or a shelter, where speed or efficiency is not an issue.
7. Recycle what you can
If electronic devices are too far gone to be repaired or donated, recycling is your next step. Some manufacturers and retailers offer a return program, so all you have to do is schedule a run when you have collected enough e-waste. Some of these companies also sponsor recycling events.
Let Us Handle All Your Waste!
We’re the company to call if you want your waste – electronic or otherwise – taken care of. We at Prestige Property Services have been providing janitorial and commercial cleaning services to businesses throughout Los Angeles and Orange County for over 15 years. Let us take care of your business, too. Call us today to learn more.