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E-Waste – Are there Recycling Risks you are Unaware of?

Electronic waste increases every year and for organisations large and small it poses a number of risks.

E-waste and its disposal pose several risks for businesses including direct risks such as data breaches and the potential costs, but also environmental risks that may not be apparent straight away nor even appear to be a risk at all.

Electronic devices are used by individuals and organisations more than ever before and that is not about to change. As the Internet of Things gathers more steam we will find ourselves surrounded by even more electronics and the vast volumes of data that they allow us to create and store.

As inevitable as the increase in electronic devices usage, so too is the need for disposal of these devices as they become outdated – which for some devices is alarmingly quick.

First, let’s take up the latter risk…

 

E-Wastes Environmental Risk for Organisations

E-waste poses significantly higher risks of contaminating the environment due to the toxic and non-biodegradable nature of many of the components on electronic devices.

While environmental risks may not at first appear to be much of a risk for organisations who recycle their electronic waste through e-waste recycling companies, there is nonetheless a risk.

This risk is a long term one. In the US, a number of e-waste recycling companies have already been caught out disposing of e-waste dangerously without any recycling. There is no reason to believe that this type of activity cannot happen here in South Africa too.

This kind of behaviour, where it becomes wide-spread soon creates the risk of a dangerous environment for all.

 

The Most Common Risk of Poor E-Waste Recycling

Now to look at the far more common and immediately damaging risks of poor e-waste practices.

The most obvious risk for organisations regarding e-waste is that of a data breach. While best practice e-waste recycling clearly demands the erasure of data, this does not always happen.

The fact is, with so many electronic devices holding data these days, it can become very difficult to remember to erase the data. In fact, some devices are quite difficult to erase – Flash/SSD and thus should not be reused but destroyed.

From printers to routers, hard drives to smart phones and many devices in between, all contain a measure of personal or sensitive data.

While e-waste recycling may seem like a good option it must be approached with caution. Sometimes it is best to err on the side of caution and physically destroy your electronic devices through a secure destruction service rather than recycle for further use.

Remember, data breaches lead to legal consequences, which lead to financial consequences and reputation damage.

 

How to Avoid E-Waste Recycling Risk

The most obvious way to avoid the risks associated with electronic waste recycling is to have your electronic devices securely destroyed rather than recycled. The materials from such waste can still be recycled but the device itself will itself not be reusable.

Should you opt for e-waste recycling where the device is essentially refurbished before being resold for use then make sure you use a reputable e-waste recycler and make sure they are able to provide documented verification that any data still on the device has been fully and unrecoverably removed.

 

For more information about how to safely and securely destroy your old hard drives get in touch with Iron Mountain today.