If you throw a laptop in the garbage today, this would be the degradation cycle. By 2083, the more fragile metals would eventually break down, such as tin and steel. Only after 200 – 500 years would compounds like aluminium deteriorate. Worst case scenario, that would be in the year 2583.
If you also threw a computer mouse away with this laptop, add another 1 000 years to this e-waste equation. This means your tech trash today will have an environmental impact until the year 3583.
e-Waste is toxic waste
E-waste is the fastest growing waste category in our country. Despite this, only 7 – 12% of the total volume is recycled. Considering that each South African produces around 6 kilograms of e-waste per year and we have a population of 70 million, the big picture becomes very alarming.
Unfortunately, people don’t realise how damaging e-waste can be during the decades it takes to degrade; not only to the environment, but to human beings as well. E-waste contains very toxic substances, such mercury, lead, and cadmium. From organ damage, nervous system damage and even deadly diseases, these toxins can cause numerous illnesses as it decays into the soil, leaches into groundwater, or is released into the air.
These scientific facts clearly underline that the amount of e-waste being produced isn’t the only problem… and isn’t only our problem. If e-waste recycling isn’t urgently prioritised by individuals, companies, and governments, it will be a problem for generations to come.
Refurbish or recycle
To find an effective and sustainable solution to e-waste pollution, companies should understand two things. Firstly, one person’s e-waste can become another person’s refurbished IT solution. Secondly, if electronic equipment isn’t salvageable, the waste must be recycled in a responsible, ethical, and environmental manner.
This is where RentWorks has become a much-needed recycling and refurbishing partner for many South African businesses. Hermann Frankfurth, General Manager Remarketing at RentWorks, explains: “We often find that companies are uncertain about the correct procedures to responsibly dispose of their e-waste. This often results in storerooms full of unused IT equipment gathering dust and taking up unnecessary space. As a company that has recycling built into our operational foundation, we understand the importance of creating a circular economy for technological equipment in the business environment – by either refurbishing or recycling.”
Hermann unpacks this principle by explaining the RentWorks process. After a site visit to a company’s storeroom, an analysis is made to determine if a buy-back or clearing solution is needed. “Often businesses are pleasantly surprised to hear that we want to purchase the used equipment from them, which provides an unexpected cash flow injection.” These items are then collected by RentWorks, the data wiped according to the POPI Act’s procedures, and returned into the working world as refurbished IT equipment.
If the equipment isn’t salvageable, it will enter the recycling process. After the data wiping process, which is required by law, the e-waste is transported at RentWorks’ cost to certified recycling suppliers and recycled according to the National Environmental Management Waste Act.
Become part of a sustainable solution
If more South African businesses work with partners such as RentWorks to ensure their e-waste disposal policies support our country’s refurbish-recycle circular economy, not only will the demand for new IT equipment start to decrease but the annual tonnage of e-waste as well.