Here's How Much Not Recycling Your Old Laptop Is Costing You
The consequences of not recycling everyday gadgets like old laptops will eventually hurt not only the environment but our business too.
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Recycling is one of those buzzwords that go back and forth in popularity. On one hand, recycling electronics is a responsible, earth-friendly, sustainable thing to do. On the other hand, in today's fast-paced world, it can be easy to set it aside in favor of focusing on production, sales, and the bottom line.
But is recycling electronics really just a time-consuming endeavor to be done when start-up owners have the time? Or is there a greater cost to ignoring this environmentally-minded step?
Related: The Electronic Menace: Why E-waste is a Major Concern Today
The cost of e-waste
You don't have to have a reputation as a tree-hugger to be aware of the cost of electronics that are not properly disposed of. It's well-documented.
For starters, just think of the staggering amount of e-waste that is thrown away in landfills each year. A report by the UN listed it at almost 54 million tons in 2019 and the rate at which we add more e-waste to the pile is growing. Experts say that our electronic waste output will double by 2035.
All of that has a massive impact on the world around us. Environmental impact alone is shown in the fact that improperly disposed e-waste leeches into the soil and groundwater, affecting both animals and humans for miles around the disposal site. And with high levels of chemicals and metals from the gradual breakdown, the World Health Organization has linked the increase of likelihood of diseases like respiratory issues and cancer to e-waste that has not been properly recycled.
As a matter of fact, only about 17 percent of e-waste is recycled correctly.
If the impact on our health and environment doesn't convince you that recycling electronics is the way to go, there are other issues at stake for entrepreneurs like you and me.
Related: Good for the Environment, Good for Business
E-waste and the effect on your company
A lot of our decisions for our startups come down to the financial impact that it will have. It's only natural to want what's best for our long-term growth.
And the statistic that I point to most often in this regard is the fact that in one year alone — 2019, in this instance — the value of the materials in the e-waste in the US was seven and a half-billion dollars. Yeah — $7.5 billion in materials that could have been reused. Instead, it all got thrown away and damaged the environment on top of that.
Properly managing e-waste isn't an easy thing to do, even if you have a relatively small business. And the more employees you add, the more tech is needed, the faster your turnover gets and the more e-waste your business produces. Recycling laptops, smartphones, and other tech may seem like it's a bigger hassle than it's worth, but when I stop and think about the goldmine that's been left to rot in the landfill, it makes me think twice about my goals for the future, both for myself and for my startups.
Add to that the fact that, in many places, there are fees and fines for improperly disposing of electronics, and it just makes sense on every level to reduce, reuse, and recycle, as the old saying goes.
Related: The Significance of E-Waste Management In the backdrop of Current IT Boom
What you can do about it today
The most important thing that I would advise any fellow entrepreneur to do is to start taking steps now. It might take some time to get a recycling program into effect. And sending out company-wide memos is a good start, but actually following through on the necessary actions requires more than just a piece of paper.
Work with recycling companies in your area. If you don't have any local companies, check out larger national companies that offer to recycle your old laptops, smartphones, and other tech.
Work with IT, either in-house or your favorite geek squad, to upgrade and reuse your existing tech. Believe me, I know, we tend to jettison our previous tech in favor of whatever's new each year, in the hopes that it will boost our productivity. But extending the lifespan of my present tech is one of the ways that I keep my budget in place.
Set an example for your employees. Educate yourself and others on the real cost of choosing not to recycle e-waste, and why it's worth the little bit of extra time and effort.
Can you afford not to recycle your old laptops and other tech?
The world is in a tough spot these days. We get hit by one thing after another, it seems like, and every day brings a new challenge.
Recycling old tech and properly disposing of e-waste is one of the ways that we can help the world around us to recover and rejuvenate. As leaders in our businesses and in our communities, we have the responsibility to count the cost.