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Tech Graveyards: On Handling E-Waste

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You would think that city offices, chock-full of ambitious and conscientious inner-city twentysomethings, would be more hip to recycling than rural industrial warehouses and manufacturing plants. And you’d probably be wrong. Whereas industrial sites are regulated heavily in how they dispose of their waste, office environments are breeding grounds for little technology ‘graveyards’ – piles of busted mice, keyboards, monitors and cabling that get shoved out of sight into tambours, desk drawers and storage rooms, if not bestrewn on the ground in a forgotten corner of a call centre like a pile of bones.

It’s hard to throw this stuff away, as it’s usually not broken. Monitor and PC refreshes are almost systemic at this point, baked into budgets or done to bring teams up to the same standard as they’re merged. And that’s before things get thrown out for simply being too dusty, grimy or old. FMs and IT teams are notorious for hoarding this stuff, even as storage space becomes a scarce commodity. Inevitably they find they have to chuck the lot, and doing so responsibly takes too much time and effort.

Make It Fun

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Before we examine options for hiring e-waste removal specialists, there’s an option that’s almost always overlooked by most firms: Give it Away. Or sell it on a marketplace to staff members. Aside from the fact that a lot of small peripherals get ‘borrowed’ anyway, setting up a simple marketplace or holding monthly garage sales is a fun exercise that can raise money for team outings and give staff members warm fuzzies when they get a deal. A DVI cable sitting on a storage shelf costs money to keep there indefinitely. A DVI cable in a shop costs $19.95. A DVI cable taken away by a happy staff member for $1.00 is a net gain for everyone (except the electronics retailer).

Most firms don’t do this because it’s distracting, it incentivizes retiring gear too early and there’s a perception that it turns a clean and professional office environment into a flea market. It’s also time consuming for the FM or IT team that has better stuff to do.

The response to this is: Set it up early and make it part of your day. If you take the time to set up a bulletin board, or a master spreadsheet taking stock of what you have that can be easily communicated to staff, then it will be less time consuming than making a mad rush to get rid of the stuff when it gets to be too much. Find a way to make it about cost savings and any concerns about your office becoming a souk will be overlooked.

Make It Communal

For residential environments, ‘hard rubbish’ is becoming more and more of a key necessity. Even the ritziest of apartment blocks will have some tenants keen to upcycle some pre-loved goods, while almost everyone has crap they want to do away with to make room for…well, more crap. But better crap?

Making hard rubbish a spot service is becoming popular for councils, but for a contained building that can be a weekly, if not daily commitment. Better to do quarterly pickups.

But if you want to create something a bit special, setting up a marketplace for your building can be done through Facebook, or through an in-house social media feed. This can be done in conjunction with a more professional-looking waste removal service, so residents have the option to partake without other options for getting rid of stuff. But the more stuff gets circulated from one tenant to another without your involvement, the lower your cost (and stress) when it comes time to organize a mass collection.

Make It Official

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Contact your local council, even if it’s in the CBD, to find out the local contractors who are already engaged to remove e-waste. They will already have local knowledge and infrastructure for the most efficient removal.

If you have a national provider for waste, strike a deal for scheduled collections. Enquire after waste destruction certificates and waste reports that identify the net carbon savings. This will bolster your business case for further measures.

If you’re a base building FM, don’t forget to seek a NABERS rating, which can be improved with green initiatives. A higher NABERS rating can attract higher rents per square metre.

Some Facts About e-Waste

Each of Australia’s 12 million homes has an average of 22 electronic devices

Only about 12% of e-waste is recycled, worldwide

Precious metal recovery from e-waste has become so significant in Japan, that gold medals issued at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo will be made entirely from gold recovered from electronics!

Most of the world’s e-waste ends up in China, India and Africa, where it is picked apart in extremely hazardous conditions

The global trade in proper e-waste recycling is estimated at a potential $20bn annually, but 90% of that is squandered through improper disposal

Globally, approximately 350,000 phones are thrown away each day

Proper recycling of one million laptops saves the energy equivalent to the electricity used by 3500 homes in a year


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