Electrical Office waste

old comouter recyclingWith newer and better electrical equipment getting released, it means companies are replacing old computers for the latest models. Getting rid of old computers is becoming an issue, as many are still discarding them with the rubbish. It is important to remember electrical equipment contain toxic substances, not just computers but also printers, hard drives and circuit boards. A single computer can contain up to 2kg of lead, and the complex mixture of materials make PCs very difficult to recycle.

In 2007, new legislation came into force to cover waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE). The regulations have significant implications for those who treat or recover WEEE and stipulate that users must store, collect, treat, recycle and dispose of WEEE separately from other waste. It is now a requirement that you obtain and keep proof that your WEEE was given to a waste management company, and was treated and disposed of in an environmentally sound way.

There are a few ways of disposing computer waste: returning the product to the manufacturer, using a collection and disposal service or donating the goods to a non-profit organisation.

Manufacturer disposal

Manufacturers of electronic goods incorporate e-waste management into their environmental policies and operate consumer recycling schemes. Some manufacturers cover the cost of home pick-up, shipping to the recycling centre, and recycling of any obsolete equipment. These schemes help to reduce of the volume of waste which ends up in landfill sites, cut down on the amount of raw materials needed for the manufacture of new products and make recycling convenient for the consumer.

Professional collection and disposal service

This service is similar to the manufacturer scheme but with this service comes a small price. When booking a service to collect electrical waste, be sure to check for these:

  • complies with WEEE and other relevant legislation
  • can provide details of their own Waste Carriers License, and details of any overseas partners they may use

Donating to a charity

There are many non-profit organisations that collect electronic equipment including computers and printers. Developing countries benefit most from these schemes as well as UK community groups. If donating your PC to charity, check that:

  • Appropriate security measures are in place to prevent unauthorised access, alteration or accidental loss or destruction of personal data, which is a legal requirement under the 1998 Data Protection Act. Reformatting the hard drive is not sufficient to permanently destroy all data
  • The organisation has a strategy for waste management once the PC becomes obsolete. What happens when the equipment becomes obsolete? Is there a programme for disposal or will your donation just end up as e-waste?