When it comes to manufacturing computers, peripherals, and other technology, not all vendors are equal. Alternatives are available concerning use of toxic components and energy required to fabricate and manufacture. Decisions concerning these components play into the disposal. Vendors and specialized recyclers have developed programs for salvaging and safely disposing old computers, displays and other technology.
Purchase - Buy Green
Proper disposal of computers and other technology starts with the purchase. This is the time to determine whether you use an independent responsible e-waste provider or whether your vendor/supplier has a disposal program you would like to use. Vendor programs can be found under Resources
Environmentally friendly disposal is easier if there is minimal toxic content to begin with. The Center for Clean Products and Clean Technologies
developed Electronics Environmental Benefits Calculator (EEBC) which is intended to assist institutional purchasers, including Federal Electronic Challenge (FEC) program participants, in quantifying the benefits of environmentally sound management of electronic equipment.
To make the environmentally responsible technology purchasing easier, the Green Electronics Council
(Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool), which uses the EEBC and sales data from manufacturers that participate in the EPEAT program. EPEAT is a system to help purchasers in the public and private sectors evaluate, compare and select desktop computers, notebooks and monitors based on their environmental attributes. Search for an EPEAT rating
of your vendors and products. A broader international standard, ISO 14001
, provides a certification for environmentally conscious manufacturing policies.
According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, in 2005, discarded electronics totaled about 2 million tons. It’s estimated that only about 15 to 20 percent of this was recycled. Since electronic equipment contains toxic chemicals, this can pose health and environmental risks, particularly in landfills where toxins may leak into the soil and ground water. Even from the 20 percent of e-waste collected in the US much is exported because the US is one of the few countries where it's still legal to export collected e-waste to Asia and Africa. If you’re interested in learning more about the international electronics waste problem, check the Basel Action Network (BAN)
has initiated a comprehensive certification program for responsible recyclers. The e-Steward Certification
is the continent’s first independently audited and accredited electronic waste recycler certification program. It forbids the dumping of toxic e-waste in developing countries, local landfills and incinerators; the use of prison labor to process e-waste; and the unauthorized release of private data contained in discarded computers. This is the only program that certifies and polices complete safe recycling of all components along the long full disposal journey.
See a map and list
of e-Steward certified recyclers.
The EPA addresses a part of the "ecycling" problem
and offers a regional map to help you to find information about regional and State eCycling programs. The EPA and state programs follow their respective federal/state laws. The federal and most state laws in this area are quite lax.
More information can be found under Resources
Tips for Getting Started
- Use EPEAT to qualify vendors with green manufacturing practices
- Research vendor and independent e-waste programs and develop your disposal policy and practices accordingly
- Employ a strong policy concerning computer donations - Don't become someone else's e-waste site
- For bulk purchases, have vendors minimize packaging material (number of boxes) and copies of documentation.