Electronic waste often contains valuable commodities like gold, silver, copper, platinum, cobalt, nickel, palladium and other high-value recoverable materials. When processed in developing nations in environmentally hazardous ways which include burning of the devices rather than the recycling, many of the valuable commodities are lost and never recovered. This process creates health and environmental dangers, most notably in Ghana, which houses the largest e-waste dump in the world.
John Shegerian, Chairman and CEO of ERI, one of the world’s leading IT and electronics asset disposition providers and a cybersecurity-focused hardware destruction company, knows that the irresponsible handling and disposal of e-waste will leave a massive negative impact on both our health and the environment. And could also expose the data contained in these devices to cybercriminals.
In parts of Africa lacking the essential technology or proper resources to safely dispose of electronic waste, the collected waste is burned inefficiently, leading to toxic materials seeping out into rivers, streams, and oceans where it harms the environment. Smoke plumes pollute the air and are full of toxic materials from plastics and chemicals contained in electronic devices.
“The improper disposal of e-waste in developing nations has created a global sustainability crisis, while also heavily affecting the health of the members of the community living around these areas and beyond,” Shegerian stated.
Another critical concern that Shegerian points to is the vulnerability of the data contained on these discarded electronic devices.
“These devices have gigabyte after gigabyte of data on them–all of which is not being properly destroyed, which seriously endangers the privacy of individuals, businesses, and even government entities all around the world.”
Rather than the devices being responsibly recycled and the data appropriately destroyed, Shegerian explains that many questionable disposal companies are more focused on quick profits and getting what immediate value they can get from the e-waste, be it the commodities or the data mining, which is often sold to the highest bidder.
In North America, Shegerian and ERI have established a model solution that may be replicated globally..
“ERI maintains and operates eight facilities in the US that are triple certified at the highest levels of environmental and data destruction standards via R2 certification, e-Steward status, and NAID AAA certification. What these designations signify is that e-waste is responsibly transferred from one point to another following strict, regularly audited standards and guidelines. It also assures users that the data collected from these devices is properly destroyed,” he explained.
Another advantage of these certifications is that they act as regulating bodies, often sending out geo-tracked devices to monitor e-waste materials’ whereabouts and monitoring their proper processes. In other words, making sure they do not end up in a developing nation where the destruction of these devices is not properly handled.
In addition to properly recycling devices and destroying the data contained within them, ERI is also offering its clients a new proprietary software technology tool called the ESG Impact Calculator–a first-of-its-kind initiative that allows customer organizations the opportunity to radically transparently report the reduced emissions impact that responsibly recycling their devices makes on the environment. With the ERI ESG Impact Calculator, ERI’s customers have a tangible tool to report back to their stakeholders and the general public on their true sustainability efforts when recycling their old electronics and destroying the data in their old hardware.
On the data protection front, ERI is providing unique peace of mind to its customers as well.
“When a device is responsibly recycled, part of that process should always include complete, physical data destruction,” said Shegerian. “Unethical and illegal shipping of e-waste abroad has become an additional layer to the hardware security issue because it leads to the wholesale liquidation of national security and the privacy of the corporations and individuals. Recycling these devices is important, but it must be done the right way.”
While the world continues to grapple with the ever-growing e-waste problem that is literally increasing by the day, ERI continues to see record growth year over year as more companies and individuals are both taking responsibility for responsibly recycling their electronics, be it for environmental, regulatory or data protection reasons. Shegerian predicts that by the end of this decade, not only will the volume of newly sold electronics set record levels, but the volume of electronics responsibly recycled will as well.