Tackling e-waste: 5 ways to make your IT estate more sustainable

- October 21, 2021

With three quarters (74%) of European businesses increasingly concerned about the amount of e-waste they produce, here are the top five essential steps towards making IT disposal sustainable.


A focus on sustainability is no longer a nice-to-have. It’s vital for the health of the planet and also for the survival of every business.

Sustainability must continue to rise up the list of priorities for both organisations and individuals if we are to reverse climate change. Customers, investors and employees are already abandoning companies with poor sustainability records and embracing those making a positive difference, but more can be done.

Workiva found that 70% of investors believe organisations have a responsibility to demonstrate ESG performance and Harvard Business Review reports that firms whose CSR reputations declined experienced a market capitalisation loss of $378M per firm.


The growing e-waste problem


IT leaders may feel they have little to contribute towards the organisation’s sustainability goals, but they’re wrong. There’s an area where they can make an immediate and measurable difference: e-waste.

More than 53 million tonnes of electrical and electronic waste were generated globally in 2020, according to the UN’s Global e-Waste Monitor. That’s the highest year on record, creating significant amounts of toxic waste and committing raw materials to landfill that could have been recycled for reuse.

With employees demanding up-to-date tech to enable them to fulfil their job requirements, how can companies manage the amount of e-waste they create?

One key way to solve this is by focusing on the IT lifecycle as a whole, rather than how long each individual product remains in use. We call it the Technology Lifecycle Management approach, and it’s all about reducing e-waste by changing what you buy, the way you buy it, and how you manage those devices.

But you don’t necessarily have to revolutionise the way you procure IT overnight - here are five things you can do right now to reduce e-waste – and IT costs.


1. Draft (and stick to) an e-waste policy

Our State of Business IT 2020 report revealed that more than one-third (36%) of European companies don’t know where their e-waste ends up – and a further one in ten even admitted they still send old kit to landfill. When our recent survey found that 65% feel they don’t have an environmentally sustainable IT strategy, it’s clear there’s an issue.

IT leaders have a lot on their plate, particularly when trying to provide their people with the tools they need to succeed in a rapidly evolving post-pandemic landscape. 73% say they’re under more pressure to be sustainable – but only 31% said they’re under more pressure to do the same in relation to managing their technology estate, which suggests that e-waste has yet to become a priority.

This is a clear opportunity to bring IT into the sustainability fold – by crafting an e-waste policy that’s in line with the company’s broader environmental, social and governance (ESG) commitments. Including concrete targets will help you to measure and report progress, demonstrating IT’s contribution to corporate sustainability initiatives.


2. Tackle old tech stored in cupboards

If you’ve ever dumped a bunch of old PCs in a storeroom, you’re not alone. One in four respondents to our survey said they lock old or broken devices away. A more secure and sustainable approach would be to allow these old devices to be refurbished for reuse by another organisation, while you refresh your set-up with the latest tech.

Auditing the devices you’ve got lurking in cupboards and store-rooms, and recouping their market value through an IT asset disposal operator that offers sustainable refurbishment are easy steps you can take today. You’ll make your entire system more secure by eliminating the risk that storing un-wiped legacy equipment poses, while freeing up space that could be repurposed or relinquished to save your business even more money, by eliminating other storage costs.


3. Get device choice right first time

There are often disconnects between company-issued IT devices and the needs of individual employees. Think of an employee whose role involves processing large spreadsheets and data files but is issued with the same spec PC as colleagues who only uses standard productivity tools.

That results in employee dissatisfaction, high levels of device churn, or multiple devices being issued to cover all the requirements of a role. Forrester notes that employees who are happy with their workplace tech are more engaged – making them more likely to go the extra mile and stay in their role for longer.

A good understanding of the requirements of new and existing employees will ensure you acquire devices that are fit for purpose, eliminating the risk of e-waste. Not everyone at your company will have the same demands of their devices, so a one-size-fits-all approach to IT procurement is likely to leave some unsatisfied. In contrast, adopting a device agnostic technology-as-a-service model gives you the ability to find the perfect balance of different devices to suit your organisation, with the flexibility to upgrade or change whenever you need to, without worrying about your impact on the planet.

This is also an area where Technology Lifecycle Management can work better than cash buying – as with a contract agreement, devices can be replaced and upgraded on a planned basis, rather than having to wait for the next budget cycle.


4. Keep tabs on device health

Optimising the health of each device can help you prolong its useful lifespan, keeping devices in use for as long as it’s practical.

At the same time, total cost of ownership (TCO) increases as equipment ages, runs slower, and requires more fixing. In fact, support and maintenance costs for each machine rise by 12.9% every year, between 3-6 years of use. Sticking with legacy equipment becomes a delicate balancing act to ensure the device is still fit for purpose and isn’t becoming a burden on the employee, tech support or the bottom line.

However, solving this issue and driving costs down is simple – TCO reduces by 24% when you refresh PCs every 3 years, instead of keeping them for longer. So, by switching to an as-a-service model, devices are replaced and recycled before they become a burden, benefitting cashflow by spreading the cost of your IT assets over a monthly basis. Plus, as a direct result of your devices being refurbished and reused, you’ll be reducing landfill e-waste at the same time.

An asset management console that lets you monitor the health of every device will help you spot and fix problems early before they become a critical issue, and plan replacement schedules for optimum sustainability.


5. Consider what will happen to old kit before buying

Reusing and recycling are critical practices for environmental sustainability, and they apply just as much to IT as to paper, plastic, and cardboard. Refurbishing old kit not only keeps it out of landfill, but also reduces the consumption of energy and resources to make new devices.

Without a plan in place, it can be easy to allow old tech to end up relegated to a cupboard. In comparison, having a solid strategy for how you plan to dispose of your equipment can help ensure that it is done so in a sustainable, cost effective way.

It’s possible to sell your redundant business equipment to be securely erased, refurbished and resold. This extends the life of every product and significantly reduces its environmental impact, all while allowing you to recoup some of the money spent on new gear.


A circular model can cut e-waste by 50%

We’ve been helping companies minimise their e-waste for over 20 years. Our Technology Lifecycle Management model enables you to become smarter about the management of your devices, reducing e-waste and costs in the process. Let’s work together to give your equipment a new lease of life.


Take a look at how much e-waste exists and discover how our Technology Lifecycle Management model works or see how the circular economy helped to transform Alma Media over the last 10 years.

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