What e waste! How to dispose of your old tech safely and sustainably

Software Developers, SustainabilityAppdrawn Team | Published 13th October 2023
October 14th is International E-Waste Day. We look at why this matters and what individuals and businesses can do to make a difference.

Go to any home or office in the UK and it’s highly likely that you’ll find a cupboard or drawer or storeroom filled with stacks of tech. Old mobile phones, headphones, computer keyboards, chargers, remote controls and a labyrinth of wires. Some of these will have faults – cracked screens, missing keys, dodgy connections – and others will be merely outdated, having been replaced by newer, faster, better tech. This is e-waste, and it’s a significant problem for both the environment and the economy.

The damage caused by e-waste and the need for greater awareness and greater action are being highlighted this year by the WEEE Forum as part of its International E-Waste Day on 14th October. Founded in 2002, the WEEE (short for waste electrical and electronic equipment) Forum is a non-profit association of 50 members from across the globe. Together, they share knowledge and best practice with the aim of promoting the circular economy and improving operations.

Information is made available and can be put into practice by non-member organisations, including our team at Appdrawn. According to WEEE Forum, 194 organisations from 72 countries officially registered as participants in last year’s event, with even more leveraging it to partake in or promote activities, reports and campaigns. Awareness days are an important reminder to take stock of current practices and take action where needed. However, it’s also important to ensure that action is not restricted to a single day. This is why we’ve introduced an Environmental Impact module to our staff training as part of our Environmental Policy. We’re also part of the Green Mark accreditation scheme, which you can read more about here.

Why take action throughout the year – and why the big focus on e-waste? Because e-waste is a big problem. According to WEEE Forum, 61.3 million tonnes of e-waste will be discarded this year. A proportion of this will be recycled but the majority, over 50 million tonnes, will end up in landfill, treated or traded illegally or remain in that drawer or cupboard or stockroom so common to households and offices everywhere.

It’s not just a problem in the IT field. Household items like electronic toys, smoke detectors, power tools, e-bike parts and smart home gadgets are also classed as e-waste. This means an even greater number of items hoarded in homes. It also means an even greater number of individuals who can take action and take part in International E-Waste Day.

How can you get involved and where can you start? We’ve outlined some practical tips for recycling e-waste, below:

Check your local authority services

Some local authorities accept small electrical items as part of home recycling schemes and refuse collections. Recycle Now has a handy tool for locating recycling centres in your local area. It also allows users to filter results based on the specific electronic items they’re looking to recycle.

Donate to charity

There are a huge number of non-profit groups across the UK which are dedicated to collecting unwanted electronic goods. These are either reconditioned and donated to those in need, or else dismantled and securely, safely and responsibly disposed. The Restart Project is a good place to start and features a tool that allows users to search for organisations in their local area that accept donations.

One such organisation, the Turing Trust, wipes donated computers using National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) approved software and works with a number of parties in order to adhere to stringent cyber security and environmental standards. The Trust provides IT training and resources to schools in sub-Saharan Africa.

Sell old stock

Businesses and individuals might be looking to make a bit of money from their e-waste and can do so by selling unwanted IT equipment and electronic items to certified re-sellers. Evernex, for example, promises an end-to-end recycling service certified by the EU’s Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive (WEEE). The company collects, disassembles and wipes IT equipment and then repurposes components and items.

Individuals meanwhile can use sites like Music Magpie, Back Market and Laptops Direct to earn a bit of money from old mobile phones, smart wearables, laptops and other electronics. Sites like these usually follow a similar, simple process: provide details of the items you want to sell, get a quote, pop them in the post, and receive a payment when the items are received.

Auction items

Larger companies – and those with industry-specific e-waste – may want to work with an e-waste auction company to optimise the disposal and recycling of assets. Apex Auctions is one such example; a UK-based company that works with customers around the world to value, catalogue and manage the auction of items and assets.

Do your research

Business owners or those overseeing environmental policies should ensure that they are up to speed with regulations on the disposal of e-waste. In addition to damaging the environment, improper disposal of electronic goods can lead to significant fines. The UK’s Health and Safety Executive website contains helpful guidance on the legalities and hazards of doing so.

You can register to participate in International E-Waste Day here, and use the event to promote your own initiative whilst reducing your environmental impact. It’s the perfect excuse to tidy up that tech-filled drawer, cupboard or storeroom – and perhaps make a tidy profit on the side!

Appdrawn Team | Updated 31st January 2024

Follow us on social media for more tech brain dumps.