The Green Grid aims to simplify e-waste discussion

Familiarisation with major standards, thorough investigation of waste streams, and due diligence on partners the foundation of best practice

A recent study published by the United Nations revealed that global e-waste volumes are set to grow by a third in the coming years, from 48.9 million metric tons in 2012 to 65.4 million by 2017. Much still needs to be done to improve the level of guidance available to end-user organisations looking to reduce their environmental impact and make their IT budgets go further, says The Green Grid.

The Green Grid published a white paper – Electronics Disposal Efficiency (EDE): an IT Recycling Metric for Enterprises and Data Centres – in 2013, introducing a new metric that enables organisations to assess the efficiency and environmentally friendliness of their e-waste recycling and disposal strategy. A complementary primer on the successful implementation of corporate e-waste programmes is set to follow later this year, explained John Pflueger, Board member and IT Recycling Metric Task Force member at The Green Grid:

“End-user organisations are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of putting in place a comprehensive strategy for the management of e-waste. We are continually refining the assessment criteria of the EDE metric to ensure it promotes the right behaviours. Our latest work in this area will outline the business case for responsible e-waste management, where to find the relevant information, and how to implement a suitable programme,” he said.

The proliferation of voluntary e-waste certifications, standards, and processes makes it difficult to provide universally applicable advice, but Pflueger believes that there are a number of key areas for organisations to focus on:

“It is important to consider your organisation’s specific needs and opportunities when deciding on what processes and standards to employ. Organisations should bear in mind that extracting additional value from ageing equipment is just as much a part of the solution as improving the efficiency of waste management processes – and may be more practical for many,” he said.

“Organisations also need to remember that e-waste doesn’t end in the data centre, or even in the office. It includes everyday office appliances from PCs and printers to phones and fax machines, for example; there may be tens or even hundreds of streams where electronic material flows from one organisation or location to another. Identifying these waste streams is a vital first step towards identifying opportunities to repair, upgrade, repurpose, recycle, or dispose of equipment,” Pflueger continued.

Pflueger recommends that organisations conduct extensive due diligence on any partners they choose to work with on their e-waste programmes: “Today, the most advanced organisations appreciate that their responsibilities cover not only what happens within their own operations, but also what happens downstream. It is incumbent upon organisations to ensure that all material continues to be handled responsibly even once it has left their facilities,” he concluded.