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Why We Don’t Throw Electronics in the Trash


There are three primary reasons why electronics should never be “tossed” in the trash. Most corporations are by now keenly aware of these issues, but unfortunately it hasn’t always been the case, and the message hasn’t exactly reached everyone. So, I’ve decided it is my civic duty to help amplify this message.

1. Electronics contain toxic materials that, if not handled properly, can harm people and contaminate the areas where they are discarded. Electronics typically contain lead, mercury, cadmium, beryllium, flame retardants and other materials that can be dangerous if adequate precautions are not taken. To ensure that the electronic assets illumynt needs to recycle are properly handled, all our downstream vendors comply with the R2 recycling standard. R2 certification ensures the proper management of decommissioned IT assets − stipulating downstream vendor management, logical and physical data sanitization, testing and repair of used IT equipment and components for the global market. Managing downstream vendors is key. R2 has gone beyond its original mission of simply protecting the environment and now aims to “close the loop” in creating a circular economy for electronics.

2. Electronics typically contain sensitive data. Be it employee data, proprietary information, or banking and account data, electronics need to be scrubbed thoroughly to ensure that sensitive data doesn’t get passed along to another user. At illumynt, we take responsibility for proper data sanitization, creating a chain of custody to track each asset, and ensure that all data is properly erased.

3. The useful life of most electronics can be extended by making them serviceable and available to new users after their initial use. illumynt remarkets useful devices, and when the whole unit itself may not be salvageable, we harvest usable components for resale for repair of other devices. This extension of life for devices and components has the best sustainability outcome as it helps diminish the demand for new devices that require new raw materials and energy for their creation.

Formal entities such as publicly-traded corporations and governments are being asked to account for their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. One way to minimize their Scope 3 emissions is by reducing their waste streams and keeping whatever is salvageable in use. illumynt’s approach to handling their decommissioned IT assets is to repair and remarket devices, and to salvage, reuse, and remarket parts and components, which translates to direct savings in Scope 3 emissions.

To help provide appropriate handling of electronics outside of corporate channels, governments are implementing e-waste recycling guidance and infrastructure such as new legislation for New York state. In large part, the economics of this kind of program require that the electronics manufacturers themselves “take back” product, which we hope they handle appropriately. The NY legislation is a step in the right direction to help keep electronics of out landfills.

Join me in my continuing blog series as I discuss all things related to sustainable electronics.


Carol Baroudi has been focused on sustainable electronics for more than 15 years and is recognized for her prominent work as lead author for Green IT for Dummies. Carol is a contributing guest blogger for illumynt and consulting to support new sustainability initiatives.

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