How IT Disposal is Being Used to Combat Hunger
Donna Wood, project manager at XS Resources, explains how IT disposal can be used to tackle social issues, such as hunger, both in the UK and further afield.
Imagine a world where you could pass on your unwanted technology to help put food on the table of the country’s poorest families, confident that your data would be securely wiped, your technology would be collected free of charge from your facility and under 1% of what you donated would be landfilled.
In the UK, the average lifespan of a smartphone is just under two years. For many of us, however, these unwanted yet still functioning phones, laptops, PCs, etc sit in drawers and cupboards gathering dust as a spare, or because we have data security concerns and are uncertain of where we can safely and responsibly dispose of unwanted equipment.
E-waste is now the world’s fastest growing waste stream. Worldwide e-waste generation is estimated to be 49.8 million tonnes in 2018 and growing at a rate of approximately 4-5% per year, largely fuelled by technological advances and consumer demand.
Even more worrying is that just under 20% of the world’s e-waste is collected and formally recycled, with the fate of the remaining 80% largely unknown.
International organisations report that much of it finds its way to developing countries, where health and safety and environmental protection is very limited and working conditions are poor, with many documenting child labour as commonplace.
But now there is an opportunity for companies to donate their unwanted technology to support local charities, in Aberdeen for example, unwanted technology is being reused to help put food on the table for some of Aberdeen’s poorest families.
Re-Tek, an ICT re-seller, has linked with third-sector organisation XS Resources and CFINE, a community food social enterprise, to offer a free collection service to companies wishing to donate unused – but still functioning – ICT equipment.
Companies are provided with the peace of mind that all data will be securely wiped, can take comfort that their equipment is supporting others, with the added benefit of re-claiming space in their stock cupboards.
All equipment is processed for resale, with CFINE benefiting from a share of the sale of the second-hand equipment.
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CFINE operates a range of community support and services including a food bank which will distribute in excess of 20,000 emergency food parcels through 2019, compared to 3,405 in 2014 when the food bank opened. It is an ongoing challenge to keep up with demand.
This project will help to reduce waste, environmental impacts and help the poorest in society. It will also help to revitalise ‘lost’ repair skills within the emerging ‘circular economy’ sector. Technology that cannot be re-used, is responsibly recycled, with waste to landfill estimated to be just under 1%.
But what exactly is in our technology?
Technology contains a whole range of materials – some of these materials are valuable; some are poisonous – such as mercury and arsenic, lead and cadmium.
However, the true value of technology is often underestimated, with most of us unaware that tucked away in drawers and cupboards, we are actually sitting on a small gold mine. Printed Circuit Boards (PCBs) often contain in the region of 40 different elements, which include gold, silver and palladium, as well as a whole host of scarce materials, some of which are irreplaceable for the generation of future technology.
What will you do with your technology when you re-fresh or up-grade?