Proper electronic waste disposal is not only the law, it’s good business. Not doing so can lead to costly fines, community health hazards and bad PR.
However, disposing of your electronics that are no longer wanted isn’t as easy as recycling plastic bottles or office paper. You can’t simply walk out to the back of your office and throw a computer in a designated bin.
That’s because electronic devices like computer equipment, cell phones and circuit boards all require a special disposal process in order to keep e-waste out of landfills. E-waste can be especially harmful since several components of electrical equipment are considered hazardous and can contain toxic chemicals or heavy metals.
E-waste disposal usually involves either dropping off your electronic equipment at a designated electronic waste facility or enlisting the services of a waste disposal company. Getting the e-waste to the facility and knowing which facility accepts your type of e-waste can present a whole host of issues for your company.
Here are some of the most common electronic waste disposal issues you may encounter and how to fix them.
A simple Google search for electronic waste disposal sites will result in several options, but the California’s Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery has made the hunt for sites a little less time-consuming.
Otherwise known as CalRecycle, this state agency provides a directory on its website that directs individuals on where to go if they need to recycle e-waste. The companies and organizations listed on this website participate in the Covered Electronic Waste Recovery and Recycling Program.
However, there is one downside to this directory. Although you can search by county or city, or by entering your address to find a drop-off site nearby, this site does not provide a list of items a particular facility accepts.
For that information, you will need to select a facility and then click on the name of the facility to launch their website. Still, this website narrows down your options and provides a starting point if you’re searching for a facility near the location of your business.
Although there are a handful of facilities in the Los Angeles and San Diego areas that accept e-waste drop-offs, if your company is not located close to any of them, transporting your e-waste to these facilities can be a time-consuming process … especially if you have to make several trips.
Even a relatively close distance in Southern California traffic can mean a long commute, and many hours that could be spent on other tasks.
It’s also important to note that in California, the law places a limit on the amount of waste you are legally allowed to transport to a collection site. The law states you cannot transport over 125 pounds of hazardous waste to a site, so even if you can physically fit a certain amount of waste into a transport vehicle, that amount may exceed legal weight limits.
If you are installing new computers in every office of your facility, for example, or have larger items that make a trip to a drop-off facility more difficult, a waste disposal company may be the better option for your situation.
A waste disposal company will not only dispose of the waste, it will transport the waste to a certified disposal site as well.
This is a common concern among business owners, since it is not always obvious what is considered hazardous waste and what is not.
With electronics, in particular, the answer isn’t always clear.
For example, aluminum is a common metal found in most electronics goods. By itself, it is generally considered to be safe. However, in electronics, aluminum is often paired with raw materials like beryllium oxide that does post a contamination risk.
You should never attempt to separate the toxic materials from the non-toxic elements. This should only be done by a professional. A certified electronic waste disposal company can help you determine what can be safely disposed of on your own versus what requires hazardous waste disposal by law.
Even if you have located a drop-off facility nearby, that doesn’t mean it will accept the type of e-waste you have at your company. In fact, different facilities accept different types of e-waste.
While one drop-off site may accept computer monitors, it may not accept larger appliances that have other electronic components.
The good news is that a waste disposal company certified in e-waste removal may be able to accept items that some drop-off facilities cannot. These include spent batteries or mercury-containing thermostats.
Or, if you have a variety of different types of e-waste that would warrant a trip to multiple drop-off facilities, a waste disposal company can streamline your disposal process and make removal less challenging.
One often overlooked aspect of proper disposal is the removal of sensitive data before you dispose of the equipment.
Before you hand off your e-waste, whether to a drop-off site or to a waste disposal company, it is important to remove any sensitive data that could put your company at risk. Many computers contain not only financial data, but copyright and other proprietary data. And, deleting files won’t necessarily remove this data from viewing.
Many disposal sites and waste disposal companies require this final step before dropping off your electronics. If you are unsure of how to properly do so, consult with a computer professional who can help you clean off your drives to protect your company from data thieves.
If you’re in the process of replacing office equipment, you may be rushed to dispose of old equipment quickly in an effort to reduce downtime among employees.
This can be especially disconcerting if you have a large quantity of electronic products you must quickly dispose of.
A certified waste disposal company may once again be your best option here. The best waste disposal companies can respond in a timely manner and even help you manage your e-waste stream on a regular basis.
This offers you peace of mind that your e-waste is being taken care of not only quickly, but responsibly and safely.