The proliferation of technology has brought numerous benefits to the world, providing businesses and consumers with convenient access to the latest devices. As a result, it has become easy and trendy to upgrade one’s devices regularly. Specific enterprises may even require the latest hardware to keep pace with business demands.
There is nothing inherently wrong with the desire for more efficiency. After all, the aim of technology is to make our lives easier. Unfortunately, the detrimental environmental effects of our rapid consumption of electronics can no longer be neglected. This does not mean we should not upgrade our devices when necessary. It simply means businesses must be more conscious of their device consumption rate and dedicate more effort to electronic waste (e-waste) management.
2.1. What is e-waste?
Before we begin to discuss e-waste recycling, it is imperative for businesses to know more about e-waste first. Electronic waste, sometimes referred to as e-waste or e-scrap, is often used to describe electronic products that are either unwanted, broken or at the end of their lifespan. However, this term can also refer to any discarded item with a battery, cord, or plug.
Despite being one of the smallest nations globally, Singaporeans still generate around 60,000 tonnes of e-waste annually. To put things into perspective, that is equivalent to the weight of 220 Airbus A380 aeroplanes. Here is a handy piece of infographic highlighting the common e-waste found in Singapore.
2.2. Factors contributing to the rise of e-waste
There is no denying that our lives are more comfortable thanks to modern technology. However, modernisation has also come at a cost. The assimilation of tech into our daily lives has made it challenging for many to separate themselves from their devices. Whether we are dining at a restaurant or taking our daily commute, it is common to spot someone using their smartphone. This deep integration has resulted in factors that contribute significantly to the e-waste problem.
Factor #1: Shortening lifespan of electronics
In an era of constant innovation and upgrades, consumers frequently clamour for the latest iterations of their favourite devices. One need only look at the annual events hosted by tech giants like Samsung and Apple to announce their latest flagship models and the fervour that follows these announcements.
The desire to own devices that boast the latest features has contributed to a shorter upgrade cycle, with many replacing their current equipment with the newest models even though the former continues to function perfectly. When this happens, the older equipment is frequently tossed aside rather than reused or sent for electronic recycling (e-recycling).
The big players in the tech industry appear to have caught on to this shift in consumer habits and are shaping how the future of electronics is consumed. A study conducted by Öko-Institut researchers discovered that electronic product life spans are getting shorter. While researchers are unable to draw conclusive proof that the products’ lifecycles were deliberately shortened, it nevertheless demonstrates that electronics are no longer as durable as they once were.
Moreover, companies are beginning to discontinue support for older models. This makes it more practical for consumers to purchase a new model rather than maintain or repair their current devices. For example, specific devices may no longer support the latest software updates or the service centres do not carry the necessary components to maintain and repair older models.
Factor #2: Greater consumption of cheaper electronics
The shortened upgrade cycle for devices can also be attributed to the more affordable price points for most modern gadgets. These attractive prices drive higher demand for the latest models, even for those earning lower incomes.
The increased sales more than make up for the lower profit margins, as consumers find it cheaper to buy or upgrade their devices compared to getting them repaired. Such mentality contributes to a flood of products on the market, and without proper e-recycling practices, this will only contribute to significant e-waste.
Factor #3: Portable electronics are becoming more of a necessity
As technology becomes more integral in our daily lives, portability is no longer a luxury but a necessity. This feature is crucial for businesses, especially after the COVID-19 lockdowns. While organisations have already begun to shift from bulky desktops to personalised laptops to provide employees with more flexible work arrangements, more mobile devices will undoubtedly become the norm now that companies are shifting to a hybrid work model.
However, this change comes with its caveats. For example, the shift to laptop devices has led to the mass abandonment of desktop computers. Other portable gadgets, like digital tablets, eschew a mechanical keyboard in favour of an on-screen keyboard to make it easier for users to carry them around. But if users find it a hassle to use the latter feature, they have to purchase a wireless keyboard separately, leading to the production of more e-waste.
Moreover, if these discarded PCs and additional peripherals are not handled appropriately, they will only contribute to improper e-waste disposal in Singapore.
2.3. Why it is imperative to reduce e-waste
Environment protection has been a hot-button topic in recent years, with various initiatives focused on reducing carbon emissions to tackle climate change. Certainly, minimising e-waste is part of this conversation. By stemming the production of excess e-waste, we can reduce greenhouse gases.
However, e-recycling also brings about other positive impacts on the environment. Most devices contain a veritable mine of precious materials such as gold, silver, cobalt, and platinum. When these gadgets are disposed of, these valuable metals are thrown away along with them. So it might be more feasible and ecologically friendly to recycle the metal from these discarded devices to fuel the production of new equipment rather than continue to extract more minerals from the earth.
There is also another reason why improper e-waste disposal is actively discouraged. Our devices contain various metals and chemicals that are hazardous to the environment. Fortunately, we are safe from these harmful effects thanks to the containers designed to house these toxic components. But these safeguards are rendered ineffective once they are broken or cracked, as is often the case when our gadgets are disposed of haphazardly.
Without proper e-waste management, our landfills will be composed of dangerous substances and toxic materials. Subsequently, these chemicals may leak into the environment, causing irreversible long-term damage which impacts our ecosystem. Exposure to these harmful substances can also affect the long-term health of those who scavenge these old electronic devices for valuable metals like aluminium, tin, copper, and iron.
Examples of electronics containing toxic materials include
|Harmful Substances||Commonly found in||Effects on the human body|
|Cadmium||Nickel-cadmium rechargeable batteries and resistors||Inhaling cadmium can cause kidney damage and trigger severe respiratory ailments. Low-level exposure to this element can result in anaemia, brain and nerve damage, and fragile bones.|
|Lead||Lead-acid batteries and cathode ray tubes that are usually found in older TV models and computer monitors||Breathing in lead dust can result in irreversible damage to a person’s brain, kidneys, and nervous system. High-level exposure can cause seizures, unconsciousness, and in the worst-case scenario, death.|
|Mercury||Light switches and fluorescent tubes||Breathing in mercury vapour can result in headaches, memory loss, and various behavioural and neurological disorders. High-level exposure to the chemical can damage a person’s brain, heart, kidneys, and immune system.|
|Americium||Smoke detectors||Exposure to americium can increase one’s risk of contracting cancer.|
|Sulfur||Lead-acid batteries||Corrosive sulfuric acid can cause skin burns and severe irritation to the nose and throat. Exposure to the eyes can cause blindness.|
|Brominated Flame Retardants (BFRs)||Industrial products including electronic equipment, textiles, and plastics||Long-term exposure to BFRs can increase one’s risk of developing cancer.|
|Beryllium oxide||Semiconductors, CPU heatsinks, and vacuum tubes||In its powdered form, beryllium oxide is carcinogenic, and regular exposure can increase one’s risk of developing lung cancer.|
|Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)||Industrial and domestic products such as the AC adapter of a laptop||PVC contains hazardous chemical additives like phthalates, which can damage a person’s lungs, kidneys, liver, and reproductive system.|
E-waste is a significant problem for many businesses, not just those in the tech industry. When a company expands and hires more employees, it will require more tech. This leads to the production of more e-waste, as more and more devices are bought, used, and discarded yearly. Therefore, e-waste recycling is becoming more vital than ever.
Fortunately, there is now a greater awareness about e-waste and its harmful effects on the planet, resulting in significant advocacy for e-recycling. However, there remains a lack of information on how organisations can manage their e-waste. Let us share what entrepreneurs can do to encourage e-recycling efforts within their companies.
3.1. Basic electronic recycling tips
1. Educate and encourage employees to recycle
Company-wide e-waste management starts with the business owner and their employees. Not everyone understands the full impact e-waste has on the environment and what they can do to combat the problem on an individual level. Therefore, it is crucial for entrepreneurs to educate themselves and raise awareness of this issue among their employees.
As the leader of the organisation, it is essential for business owners to set an example and follow through with their actions. An excellent way to kickstart the initiative is to have crucial e-waste statistics and information readily accessible to everyone in the company. It also helps to understand the National Environment Agency’s (NEA’s) guidelines on e-waste disposal to know how e-waste products can be recycled correctly.
2. Set up a drop-off centre for e-waste
The easier a task, the more likely it is to accomplish it. This logic can definitely be applied to a company’s e-waste recycling initiatives. By providing employees with convenient access to a dedicated drop-off centre for e-waste, entrepreneurs make it easier for everyone to manage their e-waste. This initiative can even be further expanded upon to include personal e-waste to encourage the recycling outlook.
3. Reuse as often as possible
Responsible e-waste management is not only about recycling but also about reusing existing devices. Many companies experience high tech turnover, but there is likely still a level of usability to the replaced products. Instead of purchasing new equipment frequently, enterprises can opt to send existing devices for maintenance and refurbishment if they remain functional. If the gadget is beyond repair, it can then be recycled.
4. Partner with an e-waste management company
It is crucial to work with a reliable e-waste management company in Singapore to manage e-waste responsibly. These organisations have experience handling e-waste and possess a clear understanding of how to handle and dispose of electronics containing harmful substances correctly.
Additionally, e-waste management companies generally offer hard disk degaussing and shredding services to ensure every device is scrubbed clean before they are recycled. This makes it impossible for nefarious parties to compromise the company’s devices and obtain sensitive information.
3.2. How to keep your company data secure before recycling your electronics
Cybersecurity is a concern for many companies when it comes to e-waste management. Despite enterprises’ best efforts to reuse and recycle, all devices will eventually break down when they reach the end of their lifecycles. When this happens, entrepreneurs will need to seek a replacement.
However, these soon-to-be discarded gadgets still contain plenty of information recorded over their lifespans. Therefore, it is essential for organisations to maintain a habit of checking their devices and wiping all information before donating or recycling their equipment. Please ensure a backup of the data is created and secured before wiping everything.
Unfortunately, file deletion is sometimes insufficient in preventing sensitive information from leaking. The proliferation of programmes that can retrieve deleted data has made it easy for hackers to access confidential data well after it was erased from hard drives.
To ensure peace of mind, we recommend companies utilise data erasing software to sanitise their tech thoroughly. Organisations can also encrypt sensitive files before deleting them to prevent hackers from accessing the information after a successful retrieval since the data cannot be decrypted.
As for portable devices such as smartphones and tablets, enterprises can delete all information and reset these gadgets to their factory setting to ascertain that everything is wiped clean. But if entrepreneurs find these steps to be a hassle, they can always hire an expert to perform hard disk degaussing and shredding services to safeguard their company data.
As we have mentioned, e-recycling can be a sensitive endeavour. Our electronic devices contain harmful chemicals that require careful disposal to prevent damage to the environment. Moreover, companies have to ensure that any confidential information stored on these products is scrubbed clean to prevent them from falling into the wrong hands.
This is where an experienced e-waste management company can help organisations remedy these issues. But given the multitude of options available on the market, how can entrepreneurs make an informed decision? We have collated the qualities to look for in their ideal e-waste management company to help businesses simplify their selection process.
1. The company understands its partners’ needs
Many businesses launching their brand-new corporate e-recycling initiatives are likely unfamiliar with the processes involved in e-waste management. As such, they will require a partner who understands their business needs and can guide them through the entire e-recycling process, from the logistics of arranging on-site e-waste collection to the elimination of sensitive data from electronic devices.
2. The company understands the importance of data security
Employees deal with sensitive client data and confidential financial figures daily. As a result, their electronic devices generally contain information that must be permanently wiped clean once these gadgets are retired. However, a simple click of a button to delete these files from the hard drive is insufficient since hackers can still tap on nefarious software to recover data from wiped devices.
If companies want their data to be thoroughly and securely wiped, they should engage an e-waste management company in Singapore that takes data security seriously. A reliable e-waste management company will take a comprehensive approach, adopting processes like hard disk degaussing, dismantling, and shredding to remove confidential data from all electronic devices. The scraps are then recycled where possible. If not, they will be disposed of securely.
3. The company has the relevant accreditations
Every entrepreneur seeks peace of mind when they choose to work with an e-waste management company. They will want to ensure their electronic devices are securely dismantled and disposed of without harm to the environment or any information leaking out. Therefore, it is crucial for businesses to work with e-waste management companies that possess the relevant accreditations from NEA, as it demonstrates that the company is qualified for the job.
Some businesses may still have several lingering questions about managing and recycling their e-waste beyond what we have covered in our comprehensive e-waste management guide. So let us consolidate the common queries companies have about e-waste and seek to clarify these doubts.
1. What is the difference between regulated and unregulated e-waste?
Many people make the common mistake of thinking that every electronic device can be disposed of in an e-waste recycling bin. But that is not true! Electronic waste in Singapore is classified as regulated or unregulated e-waste under the Extended Producer Responsibility Scheme for E-waste Management.
Regulated e-waste must be collected and handled by a regulated e-waste management system. Subsequently, the e-waste is channelled to licensed e-waste management companies for proper treatment. Conversely, unregulated e-waste can be disposed of via public waste collectors or programmes run by industry-led groups.
Electronic devices are regulated based on their waste generation volumes and the potential impact they have on public health and the environment if they are not discarded correctly.
Examples of regulated e-waste include
Any products that do not meet the above criteria are considered non-regulated e-waste.
2. What are the different types of electronic assets accepted for disposal and e-recycling?
At Metalo International, we allow the following equipment for disposal and recycling:
You can check out our e-waste recycling page for an in-depth look at the devices we accept.
3. How do I handle contaminated or damaged e-waste?
When you are recycling any contaminated or damaged e-waste, please ensure that the devices are placed in secure containers or that relevant preventive measures are applied to avoid further contamination.
E-waste management is a concern that should be treated seriously by entrepreneurs worldwide, whether they are running a small enterprise or a global conglomerate. As the leaders within their company culture and community, they have the power and responsibility to take the lead and drive changes that help foster sustainability and minimise the impact of e-waste on the environment.
Business owners committed to the cause can turn to a reputable e-waste management company in Singapore, like Metalo International, for their e-waste disposal needs. With over ten years of experience in the industry, we can ensure that every business’s electronic devices are securely and safely discarded with minimal impact on the environment. Do not hesitate to contact us today to learn more about our services.
You can dispose of your non-regulated electronic products at any of the selected Shell locations at any time.