Home Depot may be one of the most recent companies to make the news for illegally dumping its electronic waste — resulting in a $27 million settlement with their state — but they are certainly not alone when it comes to this careless and unlawful way of getting rid of used computers and equipment.
In 2016, the world generated 44.7 million metric tonnes (Mt) of e-waste, but according to the United Nations University, only 20% was recycled through appropriate channels. Businesses must recognize that improper disposal of electronics not only poses a huge risk to the environment, but could also expose private data that remains on the devices.
Hazardous materials contained in electronics must be handled legally and responsibly. If disposed in a landfill or shipped illegally overseas, the potential for future financial liability, regulatory fines, and even jail time is a good probability. Commodity values have dropped dramatically in the last few years, which means the cost of e-waste recycling has increased. As a result, the federal government as well as many state governments are taking a closer look at e-waste management and setting a precedent for strict enforcement and scrutiny of corporate e-waste handling policies.
Data Breach Risks
Many companies must comply with privacy laws designed to keep consumers safe. Depending on the industry, standards from laws like HIPAA, FISMA, FACTA, and GLBA privacy rules are very strict on how data is handled, even during disposal. If equipment is illegally dumped or improperly resold still containing data, it very easy for any dumpster diver or second-hand buyer to extract data and do what they want with it, leaving the company and their customers vulnerable.
When it comes to proper recycling or reselling of equipment, businesses must do their due diligence to make sure they are managed legally to protect the environment, worker and public health, and all confidential data. Companies must consider their electronics recycling practices to ensure they are fully complaint with state and federal laws as well as industry regulations.
Follow these tips to keep your corporate e-waste programs in compliance:
- Find a single vendor to conduct all of your equipment resale, e-waste recycling, and data destruction. This will simplify the process and ensure nothing is overlooked.
- Implement and enforce a company-wide policy to ensure every branch is following the same processes. This will allow for all-encompassing reporting for audit purposes and ensure no individual branch makes the wrong decision.
- Protect all data containing devices as soon as they are taken offline. Many devices such as copiers and printers have hard drives that store data so don't forget about them! Use a security cart or bin to lock the hard drives in until they can be safely destroyed.
- Know all federal, state and applicable industry regulations. Most states have different sets of e-waste recycling and data privacy laws so make sure you know them.
- Do your due diligence by working with an R2 and e-Stewards certified e-waste recycling and resale vendor, the highest level of certification in the industry.
It starts with awareness, companies need to know the risks that come along with improper handling of e-waste. By implementing programs that protect data and ensure environmentally-safe recycling, organizations can be confident their electronics management program is in compliance.
If your business is located in the Sioux Falls, SD, Omaha, NE or surrounding areas, contact SEAM to learn how to implement or improve your current electronics recycling or resale program.