What A Waste: how old tech harms your sustainability


What A Waste: how old tech harms your sustainability

Be honest: how many old mobile phones have you got in your bedside drawer, thrown in there the moment you unboxed a new one? And is there a crumbly old laptop lurking under your bed?

Whether at work or at home, we all end up with old devices that need replacing because they’re slow and unreliable, or that just get superseded by shiny newer models. What happens to these old devices, however, is arguably more important than what we do with the new ones.

That’s because the amount of technology hardware that goes to waste is absolutely vast. Research by the European Union found that in 2015 alone, the waste IT and telecommunications equipment collected across the 28 EU member states weighed in at almost 640,000 tonnes [1]. To put that into perspective, that’s almost five times the combined weight of all the Airbus A380 superjumbo planes ever built [2][3]. 

If the sheer volume of the waste created wasn’t enough of a concern, there are significant environmental impacts hidden inside them, too. Many devices, particularly portable ones like smartphones and tablets, contain materials which are obtained in environmentally unfriendly ways, or contain non-renewable resources that won’t be around forever [4]. This underlines the importance of recycling these devices, or parts of them, as much as possible, as throwing these devices away is bad for the planet and bad for business sustainability. 

New game, new rules 

When people normally think of business sustainability, they think of the obvious things in their working days and practices that they can change. For example, they might take advantage of new opportunities to work from home and reduce the carbon footprint of commuting every day. They may also use video collaboration technology to conduct meetings virtually and eliminate the emissions created by driving or flying to meetings in person. 

Of course, these are key parts of sustainable business, but they don’t address the core issue of IT disposal. And when producing a single laptop can consume more than 225kg of CO2, it’s not something a sustainable business can afford to overlook.

Some companies who buy in new IT assets simply park the old ones in a store cupboard, never to be used again. To an extent, you can understand why: if a machine is locked away, the data on it can’t fall into the wrong hands, something which can bring severe consequences in the era of GDPR. But from a sustainability point of view, stockpiling old devices is about as useful as throwing them on a landfill site. And in a general business climate where sustainability and the environment are pressing concerns for CEOs and board members, it just isn’t acceptable any more.

IT lifecycle management for the win

The solution to this problem lies within IT lifecycle management, where leased computers, laptops and other devices can be collected by the lessor at the end of their defined lifecycles. The lessor can then ensure that the residual data on these devices is professionally wiped to official certified standards, and then refurbish the wiped devices for reuse. This avoids energy-intensive recycling processes, and reduces the CO2 burden by spreading it across two users. Meanwhile, the business that’s replaced those devices can rest assured that their IT estate consists of sustainable devices, something which is bound to please senior management.

At 3 Step IT, data wiping and device reuse is a key part of what we do. We’re proud of the fact that 98% of the old devices sent to us for disposal are reused, and that not only are we practising sustainable IT, but that we’re helping our clients do the same.

We’re not going to save the world, but it’s our duty to do our bit. And ultimately, that’s what sustainable business is all about.

To learn more on how a IT lifecycle management strategy can make your business more sustainable, click below to watch a short video.

[1] https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php?title=File:Waste_electrical_and_electronic_equipment,_total_collected,_by_EEE_category.png
[2] http://www.modernairliners.com/airbus-a380/airbus-a380-specs/
[3] https://www.airbus.com/aircraft/market/orders-deliveries.html
[4] https://www.lovefone.co.uk/blogs/news/what-materials-are-mobile-phones-made-of