Getting rid of electronic stuff that is no longer cost effective is a major problem for all users of digital technologies. There are only so many relations on whom you can offload your creaking mobile phones and decrepit laptops. When it comes to bigger kit such as servers and desktop computers, businesses in all parts of the print media supply chain have some hard choices to make.
In the graphic arts industry there is already a culture of recycling and a mentality that sees waste as a potential revenue source. From silver and aluminium through to cardboard, we have had many years to hone our recycling and revenue converting skills. But the growing volumes of electronic equipment used in modern printing and publishing companies is not so easily dealt with. For a start there are various legal requirements for the disposal of electronics. For instance in Europe the WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment) directive supplements general waste legislation and is designed to prevent the dumping of electronic and electrical equipment, at least in Europe.
There is still a serious problem with growing mountains of IT waste finding its way to countries such as Nigeria and Ghana where it poses a severe health risk to local people. Efforts in the developed world are being made to mitigate the problem, for instance with WEEE in Europe. Elsewhere companies recognise the commercial potential of recycling IT equipment. New companies specialised in the disposal of electronics are springing up and there is a growing cohort of organisations which specialise in the recycling of old IT both in their home countries and abroad. These organisations offer customers a valuable service and a means of soothing consciences.
If you are considering working with companies such as EcoSystems Group in the UK or Electronic Recyclers International (ERI) in the USA, start the conversation with costs and destinations for the recyled goods. Find out how the company clears the data from your devices and what assurances they can give data protection on how and where they recycle machines. How closely do European companies follow the WEEE directive and how much of what they collect ends up in landfill?
Cost is obviously the main consideration for most companies. You may be prepared to pay someone to take away your old computers, scanners and desktop printers. But how much are you prepared to pay to provide raw materials for another company’s product? Environmental considerations and contributing to improving resource use and management should be enough, but the dialogue between price and value has to happen. The alternative is for printing and publishing businesses to set up their own schemes for IT disposal. Better for most to work with specialists, and for printers and publishers to stick with what they know best.
– Laurel Brunner
Verdigris supporters who make the blog possible: Agfa Graphics (www.agfa.com), Digital Dots (www.digitaldots.org), drupa (www.drupa.com), EFI (www.efi.com), EcoPrint (www.ecoprintshow.com), Fespa (www.fespa.com), Heidelberg (www.uk.heidelberg.com), HP (www.hp.com), Kodak (www.kodak.com/go/sustainability), Pragati Offset (www.pragati.com), Ricoh (www.ricoh.com), Unity Publishing (http://unity-publishing.co.uk) and Xeikon (www.xeikon.com)