E-waste management is an urgent global challenge in our rapidly advancing technological era. As electronic devices become obsolete at an alarming rate, the proper handling and disposal of electronic waste are crucial. E-waste contains toxic materials that pose significant environmental and health risks if mishandled. Effective e-waste management involves various strategies such as recycling, refurbishment, and responsible disposal. Recycling allows valuable materials to be recovered, reducing the need for resource extraction. Refurbishment and reuse initiatives help extend the lifespan of electronic devices, minimising the overall waste generated. Implementing strict regulations, raising awareness, and promoting sustainable practices are essential steps towards efficient e-waste management for a greener future.
PAUL Welcome to this week’s episode of Rethink What Matters with me, Paul, your podcast host. And today, we are talking about the very important subject of E-Waste, Electronic Waste, with Natalie King Barnard of Green Machine Computers.
The goal of Awardaroo is to bring the economy, ecology, everyone into balance with regenerative business execution for a happy, healthier and profitable future.
So E-Waste is spot on in helping to support this goal. Natalie will explain what E-Waste is and you may be surprised how broad Green Machine Computers E-Waste management service is. So, sit back, save money, and lower your carbon footprint, as Natalie tells us about E-Waste.
PAUL Hello. Hi there!
NATALIE Good morning! Good afternoon!
PAUL Afternoon, I think now. So yes, this afternoon’s Rethink What Matters podcast, we’re going to be talking about E-Waste. And on this podcast, we’re trying to create a 21st century mindset, if you like, a 21st century way of thinking and living and working. And I think, E-Waste is such a great subject for this, and Natalie, I know you can tell us lots about it.
But in terms of one of these old ideas of the 20th century which was this whole planned obsolescence. Can you imagine in the 20th century, they used to design things to fail, to be thrown away after a short amount of time and become redundant as quickly as possible? So, that’s not a 21st century way of thinking at all, isn’t it? So we’re interested to know more about it. I know that E-Waste is a big issue and it’s 70% of all toxic waste.
"It's 70% of all toxic waste, 12% of it is recycled and 85% ends up in landfills."
PAUL 12% of it is recycled and 85% of it ends up in a landfill.
NATALIE And it’s such a wide-reaching area as well. Like, you will find electronic items in every room of your house and every room in your offices as well. So it’s from electronic toothbrushes to your washing machine. But electronics aren’t going anywhere so we start kind of dealing with disposing of them correctly and also making sure they’re more sustainable as well.
PAUL And yes, that’s really an important point, isn’t it? So that, how they get made, and what do we do with them afterwards and how long could they last, for one. Phones is a classic example, isn’t it? Apparently, the average person upgrades every 18 months.
NATALIE Actually, there are three mobile phones for every human on the Earth.
PAUL So, could you tell us more about e-waste then, a little more about it and, you know, what exactly it is?
NATALIE So E-Waste stands for Electronic Waste but essentially is anything that’s got wires in it or a plug or a battery or circuit board and they’re all going to contain precious resources and chemicals in them as well. So you’ve got gold, silver, copper, lead, cadmium, cobalt, mercury, all kinds of stuff that we harvest from the Earth and obviously aren’t going to last forever. So you mentioned the kind of toxic levels that e-waste causes in the emissions. But, e-waste as an industry is responsible for 2% of global emissions across the world. But, that doesn’t sound a lot. It’s the same amount as the whole airline industry.
NATALIE And because we’re so reliant on technology, it’s constantly growing. So the rate that we’re producing e-wastes is growing faster than the human population. And last year, we disposed of, in weight terms, nine times the size of the Great Pyramid at Giza.
"... last year we disposed of - in weight terms, nine times the size of the Great Pyramid of Giza."
PAUL It might be just worth you talking a little bit more about Green Machine Computers Limited because, you know, what you do there and how you’re helping your customers with their e-waste problems.
NATALIE So, we work with businesses and individuals so, anyone and everyone. From the layman to huge corporations and
“we specialize in taking that kit when it’s at the end of its life span and extending the life span essentially so that it doesn’t go into a landfill. It’s being put back into the community and it’s reused for another 3 to 6 years “
using a whole lot less of emissions, lower energy to create it all. And it’s reusing all of those resources so that we don’t have to mine for more.
So what we’ll do, is say, a business will come to us saying they’re upgrading their kit or moving premises or sadly, they’re closing down and we’ll come and collect everything down to wires, the network system, servers, cabinets, furniture – the lot.
And we’ll remove any data-containing drives, they’ll go to the specialist data center we have on site. And then, our recycling team will test and repair everything that they can. Anything that’s deemed not worth repairing; it’s too expensive or it takes too long, then it gets sent to a refinery. We work with a refinery that will break down those parts to their core materials so the materials can be melted down and used again.
NATALIE So then, once everything’s been tested and we’ve got all the good working parts, we’ll put that back into a new build, rebuild a whole new computer and then 50% of the computers we built get sent to charities, nonprofits and schools across the UK. So it keeps their costs down and it also keeps their emissions down as well.
We do have a small number of businesses that refurnish their offices with refurbished hardware and then we’ll look after that ongoing so we can remotely log on and make sure that it’s had all these updates and making sure that any changes that need to be made with installing drivers and things like that. And then when time comes for it, we can bring it back in and give it a clean, maybe repair it, and extend it for another 6 months or maybe just replace it with another refurbished device.
But, every year that we reuse that device we’re saving emissions and we’re reducing the amount of new resources that are needed to make brand new. So it’s all doing good for the environment.
PAUL That’s brilliant! So for companies then, you’re helping extend the life of their electronics, potentially, while upgrading it maybe or replacing parts, you know breathing new life into it so they can use it longer. And if they can’t keep using it, then you find another use for it unless it’s obviously completely broken, you know, you can dispose of it as well. And then otherwise, if you can repair it, give it to a charity. So there’s a number of different things you’re doing there, isn’t there?
“It's not just about making sure we don't pollute the rivers and the air, and the oceans, you know. It is about extending the life of it and minimising further extraction from the natural environment.”
NATALIE That’s what kind of sets us apart a little bit from other IT asset disposal companies and they might offer you money for your old equipment, or they’ll just come and collect it for free, but then, they’ll get that, the value from the materials that are inside or they’ll just sell it on to other countries that buy good money. Whereas, we are all about putting it back into the world again so it’s extending that life span and reducing the environmental impact of IT hardware as a whole.
PAUL I think that’s great to hear. Really feels like that, that’s your mission. Your mission is to minimize e-waste and use electronic products as effectively as possible. You know, get as much life out of it as possible. So all the energy that’s gone into extracting those rare metals and building the components is put to maximum use which has got to be the name of the game, right? I mean, that’s got to be what it’s all about.
NATALIE The only way it’s going to be sustainable in the future is if we kind of rethink our way to go about it a little better.
PAUL And I’m just curious, really, what is the reception of companies to this when you say to them, you know, you’ve got an e-waste service. Do they want to take the time in investing in that, or do they just rather throw it away or --?
NATALIE People are really happy to get rid of something that's clogging up their offices. It's more often than not, it’s a bugbear for them. And they just want to get rid of it. But make sure their data is safe. So that's why they would come to a business like us rather than just taking it to like a local recycling tip because you can't guarantee your data. So we'll give all your certificates. We can say that we've wiped all of the data from all of the drives and we can also do a CA-2 breakdown as well, which lists what we've collected and the environmental impact of that.
PAUL Brilliant so actually, as it's worth talking about that a little bit more, isn't it? Because that might be a reason why people want to just take up a hammer to it and smash it up. Or don't want to give it to anybody else because they may be worried about data that's hidden on that device somewhere. So you know, you can manage that thing. You can handle that. You can remove that data. How? What is the process for that? Do you like subject it to like a --
NATALIE Forgive me. I'm not a techie, I'm not a techie. I'll explain it to you how they explained it to me. So it goes into a computer and it writes lots of ones and zeros on it. And then it wipes that all off and then it writes up ones and zeros on it and it does that lots and lots of times. And then once it's done that X amount of times it says is it now blank? Is it now? Definitely got no data on it. If it's failed that procedure, it gets physically destroyed on site, so we have a hard drive crushing machine, which is very fun, which we can just like slot it into a little post box and crush it and see the disc gets smashed over and then that just goes to the metal refinery. But more often than not, it passes the computer system.
PAUL And there's a certificate that you provide. You said so.
NATALIE Yeah, we provide a number of certificates. You get one on the day of the collection that basically says that we're now in control of your e-waste and it's no longer your responsibility. You get another one within 21 days that just lists everything we've got for your audit trail. And then you get your data destruction certificate after 28 days says that we've wiped all of your data compliant with GDPR and then CA2- one you don't get a standard, but if you ask me nicely, I'll do it for you.
PAUL So what should we all be doing, then, with our e-waste? Is there any sort of general advice you can give people so you know? If we were to do 2, 3, 4, 5 things?
NATALIE I would say for weird miscellaneous things, go to your local recycling centre or your landfills will have electronic bins, so like, lamps and vapes and things like that. And because my life at the moment, I see them everywhere on the floor. People just put vapes in the bin. And that really bugs me.
You can obviously extend the lifespan of your kit. Do that for a professional or more often than not, looking after what you've got. Making sure that you clean it both digitally and physically. You'll be surprised a lot of computers that come to us that have died just because they're full of dust and they've just run out. So yeah, a lot of it’s a mind shift kind of thing. So, we don't need to be competing to have the latest model of iPhone and we need to be forcing companies to make their technology more repairable.
“So for some brands it's near on impossible to repair some of their devices, but for others it's a lot easier and their parts are a lot more accessible. It encourages you to repair them more. That needs to change really. Be mindful about where you're purchasing it, who you’re purchasing it from and when it comes to disposing of, it makes sure that you're doing it in a ethical and environmental way. You're not just popping it in the bin.”
PAUL Brilliant. I mean, I think if we can raise everybody's awareness, anyone who watches this, listens to this. If you can just raise awareness, we're already making a big start on it because I think a lot of people don't really consider e-waste, which they should be doing. So you know, it's obviously CO2 is what it's all about. How do we link e-waste to global warming?
NATALIE So there's a number of ways that it's linked to global warming, both through the improper disposal of it and the production of it, but the majority is the CO2 that is attributed to electronics will happen during the production stage. So if we were to take, say, a laptop computer as an example. The average laptop will produce 180 kilogrammes of CO2 or equivalent in its lifespan. It's supposed to last about three years, on average, 150 kilogrammes will be produced when the laptops made and then it's 10 kilogrammes per year, that is expected in use of a laptop. Taking that laptop when it's at the end of its lifespan at the end of that three years and repairing it and extending the lifespan for another two or three years, then we've prevented a new laptop from being made for that three-year period. So we can basically say that we've saved 150 kilogrammes.
A White Paper was produced from an Oxford University student that listed all of the CO2 breakdowns for the production stage of electronics. So with that information, we've been able to calculate, on average, what's the O2 saving each of those devices has, so when we do a collection for a customer, I could say this collection has saved you X amount of CO2 or equivalent. And then there's a nifty bit of software that I use that kind of puts that into layman's terms so it's a little bit more accessible, say, that's like driving a car for 1000 miles, for example.
PAUL So that's important for companies wanting to work out their footprint. You know, so whether it's scope 1, 2 or 3, you know, are they the end user? Are they making it or are they involved in building them? So again.
NATALIE It could be Scope 3 and 1. If you're using reused, like, refurbished hardware in the first place. And then you're disposing of it in an ethical and environmental way then you kind of get a few of the scopes.
PAUL So I think we probably talked mostly about business then some individuals. But is there anything individuals specifically can do?
“We have a number of drop off sites across Wiltshire, Berkshire, Oxfordshire and Hampshire where you can drop off your smaller electrical items so your phones, tablets, laptops. “
So we've partnered with a number of organisations. And Wiltshire and Dorset Fire and Rescue service. So they host our secure boxes which are lockable. You would come to their site, hand over any of your items. They open up the box opposite up in there, relock it again, and then when their box is full, we come and pick it up. So that's an easy way for you to kind of drop off at your local area. You'll be able to find out on our website and like, say they're kind of all over the South, South Coast, little bit in the Midlands, mostly around Wiltshire.
PAUL That’s great they're supporting your business and doing that, aren't they, which is brilliant, supporting local private business.
NATALIE And I'm always looking forward for more as well, if anyone wants to be a location, I’ll be more than happy to have some more.
PAUL OK. So give us your e-mail. I've got your e-mail address, your website address
NATALIE If you want to e-mail me you can e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
If you want to visit the website it is www.greenmachinecomputers.com.
And we do also have a partner charity site which is tech-hub.com, but they'll be linked in with each other anyway that just kind of explains a bit more of the charity side of stuff that we do and so that's enable us to actually apply for government funding so that we can be able to do even more stuff for the community in the future. So that's exciting up and coming news, but it's still quite fair as websites get go at the moment, but the green machine one is the main one. You can also call us on 01672520133. It is usually me that answers the phone anyway. If I'm not on hold.
PAUL It’s fantastic. I really appreciate your time on this podcast, Natalie. I know you're very busy and as you say, you're going to need zip zipping off on the holiday too.
NATALIE Thank you, Paul.
PAUL So thanks again and enjoy the rest of your day.
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