Being green with old machines

The technology boom has brought with it a new type of waste - electronic waste, or e-waste. Twenty years ago, this category of waste barely existed; today, it represents the biggest and fastest growing category of manufacturing waste.
Being green with old machines
By Alka Patel
Sun 13 Apr 2008 04:00 AM

The technology boom has brought with it a new type of waste - electronic waste, or e-waste. Twenty years ago, this category of waste barely existed; today, it represents the biggest and fastest growing category of manufacturing waste.

It is estimated that close to 500 shipping containers of used electronic goods from Europe and the US will arrive in Lagos, Nigeria, this month. Each will contain the equivalent of 800 computer monitors, or 350 large TV sets.

Be cautious about recyclers who export - when e-waste is sent to other countries for recycling, mismanagement is easier to hide

Their importers will have accepted the cargo in the hope that some of the contents can be re-used, but up to 75% of the goods will be junk. The United Nations Environment Programme says that most of the 50 million tonnes of electronic e-waste produced globally finds its way to Africa in the guise of "charitable donations".

BAN (Basel Action Network) says exporters in rich countries offer used goods to importers in China, Africa and elsewhere at "best rates", saying they will find a buyer who can benefit from them.

What's involved

As we continually update and invent new products, the life of the old ones is getting shorter and shorter.

On average, a computer is:

• 23 % plastic

• 32 % ferrous metals (iron and iron alloys)

• 18 % non-ferrous metals (lead, cadmium, antimony, beryllium, chromium and mercury)

• 12 % electronic waste (gold, palladium silver and platinum)

• 15 % glass

Only about half the materials in a computer get recycled; the rest is dumped. Disposal of electronic waste leads to the creation of serious hazards from cancer causing substances, which can leach into soil and groundwater.

Printer and toner cartridges are one component of potential e-waste that is easily reused - most can be rebuilt and refilled. As a hotel or resort, you need to give as much thought to the selection of a collector or recycler of e-waste as you would give to a handler of any hazardous waste.

E-waste recycling is not always done safely, so it's important to ensure that you are working with a reputable collector.

Donate it

A lot of equipment that is out-of-date for office use is not necessarily useless. Many schools and charities accept used computers, printers, mobile phones and other equipment.

Be suspicious of bargains

The market for recycled e-waste is limited, and legitimate recyclers will charge a substantial fee to accept it. The collector must cover their own costs, as well as paying the recycler. The price will vary, depending on the transport, distance and the type of e-waste being collected. Be realistic: a legitimate collector will certainly cost more than a collector who intends to collect and abandon the waste.

Ask for details and follow up

Ask the collector for references, then check up on them. Find out where the collector sends e-waste to be recycled; and verify that the collector has a contract with that recycler. Investigate the recycling facility, visit it if possible, and ensure that the waste is being properly managed.

This may include asking about local licensing; evidence of insurance and financial stability; whether the recycler has an environmental management system and documentation that explains the recycling process and subsequent management of all e-waste components and wastes; and how all hazardous components are managed after disassembly.

Beware of exports

Be cautious about recyclers who export. When e-waste is sent to other countries for recycling, mismanagement is easier to hide.

Buy remanufactured cartridges

By using remanufactured ink toner cartridges for your printers, faxes and photocopiers, you help prevent millions of cartridges from taking up precious landfill space, save energy and raw materials, ensure a market for recycled cartridges and save money - from 30 to 50 % of the cost of new cartridges.

At the Fairmont Dubai, not only do we purchase remanufactured cartridges, we also have these cartridges replaced with new toners and have them re-inked.

You need to find out who can be contacted here for the recycling and the disposal of electric waste. Bee'ah, a recycling company that was launched in 2006, provides scientific solutions for classifying and sorting all domestic, industrial, agricultural, medical and electronic types of solid waste, as well as building leftovers.

This waste-recycling factory in the Al Saj'ah depends on the latest international technology in the recycling industry under the supervision of highly experienced specialists and technicians. The company will also set up branches in all other municipalities of the Emirate of Sharjah.

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