Circular technology: this is how it will evolve
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Recycling has become one more part of our day to day. Whether it’s separating our waste or choosing reusable products, taking proactive steps towards sustainability goals by managing our own waste and waste is already part of our everyday behaviour.
This behavior is driving a widespread shift toward a circular economy, defined by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation as a system that eliminates waste and pollution, and circulates products and materials at their highest value, both products that can be used in homes such as in shops or on IT equipment.
We are at a time when brands and companies are considering different ways to motivate consumers, not only to recycle the right objects, but to do it more often. However, for this practice to be done on a daily basis, organizations need to think about how to better adopt ways of recycling and implement circular principles within their own operations, and how this way of proceeding can benefit them. As digital infrastructure spreads into the workplace, managing technology teams is more critical and critical.
The dimension of the problem
E-waste is the fastest growing type of waste in the world. According to UNEP, the world produces up to 50 million tons of electronic and electrical waste (e-Waste) a year, which weighs more than all the commercial airline planes manufactured so far. If we continue in this line, the forecast is that the production of hybrid fuels will be 120 million tons by the year 2050.
But perhaps more surprising is the fact that the annual cost of this e-Waste, including computer equipment and electronic devices such as computers, laptops, phones, flash drives, and tablets, already exceeds $62.5 trillion. And yet less than 20% of these resources are properly recycled.
This means that opportunities are being lost, both on an environmental and a business level, for companies to include circular principles in their IT operations. Taking a more sustainable approach when considering the lifecycle management of a company’s IT assets can yield a whole host of benefits.
Three benefits of recycling and secure disposal of IT assets for circular technology
1. They can help you address your sustainability goals
Now more than ever, companies are under pressure to meet their sustainability challenges and address climate change head-on. Research on organizational resilience conducted by Economist Impact with executives found that sustainability is one of the top five business priorities along with areas like digital transformation and cybersecurity. As companies develop and communicate their sustainability goals, those that embrace sustainable solutions will stand to gain the most.
The production of new hardware accounts for more than 70% of carbon emissions in the IT industry4 and e-waste recycling services, such as those offered by Iron Mountain, that dismantle IT assets in commodity categories. The Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Forum found that every ton of electronic waste that is recycled can prevent around 2 tons of CO25 emissions. From hyperscalers to corporate offices, companies have the ability to make a tangible impact not only on their own operations, but on the planet as a whole.
2. They save money
The circular economy is based on the notion that retired assets should be treated as valuable assets.
By safely re-certifying and remarketing retired equipment, companies can recover maximum end-of-life value from technology assets through remarketing or redistribution. Although products may reach the end of their life cycle, their use does not have to; a client Iron Mountain worked with to securely dispose of his assets, realized approximately £500,000 in potential annual revenue from their resale6.
For IT assets that cannot be given a productive second life, value can be extracted through recycling. Valuable materials commonly used in electronic devices, such as gold, silver, and copper, can be mined and reused. For example, for every million mobile phones, between 15 and 16 tons of copper can be extracted, between 340 and 350 kg of silver and almost 34 kg of gold7.
3. They can keep your data safe
In addition to the environmental challenges associated with e-waste, businesses can face a number of security risks if end-of-life IT assets are not managed responsibly. These assets may contain sensitive and confidential data that, if breached, can result in severe fines and inflict severe damage on your reputation. It is therefore not surprising that the Economist Impact survey ranks cybersecurity as one of the top priorities for companies. When looking for a partner to support IT asset disposition, it’s important to do your research to ensure their services are secure and compliant.
Some of the key questions to ask yourself are: Is there a secure chain of custody in place that allows you to track assets as they are processed? Will you receive an auditable certificate of data destruction? Are your IT assets being disposed of ethically? , responsible and compliant? For example, in the EU, any service you use must comply with the European Directive on Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE).
Today’s circular economy
The end of life of computer equipment should not be a challenge, but an opportunity. Tackling IT asset disposal responsibly and securely is a win-win solution, helping to meet some of the top business priorities, from sustainability to cybersecurity, while creating an internal revenue stream. to fuel future growth. As vendors, consumers, individuals, and businesses, we can’t reverse the impact that e-waste has already had on the environment, but by embracing a more circular future for IT, we can drive a more sustainable system for the products we use.
Thomas Hollander, Secure ITAD EMEA Director of Iron Mountain