Consumer electronics companies are quick to roll out new devices to meet increasing demand but are too slow to offer sustainable solutions to the problem of obsolete electronics disposal. Consumers and third-party groups are left to deal with e-waste disposal and secured e-recycling.
Every year, 20 to 50 million metric tons of electronic waste are produced and the problem is only going to get worse before it becomes better. Out of this massive number, only 12.5% are being recycled. The rest are in landfills or dumped in developed countries to be processed and recycled.
E-waste is a global problem that affects countries, rich and poor. The electronic waste trade, at face value, appears to benefit trade partners. The richer country gets rid of waste while the other profits from it. The detrimental effects on health and environment are glossed over. After all, a solution, no matter how unsustainable and dangerous, is still a solution.
Consumers don’t keep their end of the bargain as well. They contribute largely to the electronic waste epidemic. Electronic devices like phones, tablets, and laptops are thrown away not because they are unusable or damaged but because they considered obsolete. People change devices so often that e-waste recycling could not keep up with the deluge of electronic waste.
There’s also a large percentage of people keeping their obsolete devices at home. The reason is that many consumers are wary of throwing them away because of concerns over personal data security. This is a legitimate concern and must be addressed by e-recyclers. It’s important to allay the fears of consumers so that they would be encouraged to dispose of their electronic devices responsibly.
Technological innovations in the realm of e-recycling allow for data protection while responsibly recycling electronic assets. Responsible companies that recycle devices secure customers’ data by following processes that comply with the National Association for Information Destruction (NAID) rules.
Legitimate e-recyclers handle electronic assets in a manner that complies with regulations, whether federal, state, or industry. Data from devices are wiped out and hard drives are shredded before processing to ensure data security.
Data destruction and removal come in the form of data sanitation and physical destruction. In data sanitation method, data from the hard drive are erased using the data wiping method certified by the Department of Defense. This ensures that all information in the hard drive is completely erased. The hard drives are then reused or repurposed.
In the physical destruction method, hard drives’ internal platters are destroyed using mechanical crushers to make the data completely unreadable. Another method uses mobile shredding trucks where hard drives are shredded down to tiny irrecoverable pieces.
The mobile shredders allow recyclers to perform the physical destruction on-site where clients can see and supervise the process. The crushed hard drives are then reprocessed and recycled.
Even with secure e-recycling available, it’s important to recognize that data protection starts even before the e-recycling process begins. This means that consumers of electronic products must do their part by erasing all personal information and content from their devices. This can be done by resetting the devices to their factory ‘as-new’ state.