5 Keys to Keeping Corporate E-Waste Program Complaint

The EPA, Department of Toxic Substances Controls, and other authorities are taking e-waste very seriously as corporations from at&t to Wells Fargo and recently Comcast are finding themselves at the center of huge fines and controversy. Recent changes in the way state and federal authorities are handling e-waste regulations brings to light the importance of proper controls for e-waste systems. While there are many based practices to a great corporate e-waste program, there are five keys to keeping your corporate e-waste program compliant and this article will walk you through each of them.

#1: Centralize E-Waste Management, Instead of Allowing Local Decisions

In all of the recent examples of corporate mishandling that have lead to fines of an average of $50 Million, there is one commonality–mismanagement of electronics waste by individuals at a local office or division. We have yet to see examples of corporate-wide mishandling issues. Instead, it seems that companies that have suffered are those who felt local offices can make decisions on this “minor” task. As e-waste and hazardous waste regulations change both on a national level and on a local, state by state level, it’s important to ensure compliance. Many large corporations are finding out that the computers and monitors sitting quietly inside of their offices and cubicles are actually considered hazardous waste by many states. Since regulations are changing so rapidly, it is critical to establish a centralized management system for all e-waste so mistakes are not made at the local level. This is the first step to a successful corporate e-waste program.

#2: Protect All Data Containing Devices, Not Just The Obvious Ones

There is a big misconception that only computers and servers contain sensitive data. In fact, some of the most sensitive data in any company is actually stored on devices other than computers, laptops and servers. Of course, there are the usual suspects such as tablets and mobile devices, which now contain just as much or even more sensitive data than servers since just about everything flows through them. But even beyond those devices, there are devices that quietly store your data without anyone knowing. Today, most copy machines and many printers have hard drives or some sort of storage device inside of them. That means, when you make a photocopy or a scan, the copier actually stores a copy on the local hard drive within the copier. This means that your copy machines, fax machines and printers are storing sensitive data and must be handled in the same manner as your computers and servers. A corporate e-waste program is incomplete without considering this important data security issue.

#3: Work With Certified E-Waste Recycling Vendors Only

There are some minor state regulations for e-waste recycling vendors but they are, for the most part, very vague and still in development. Therefore, simply looking for vendors with proper state approvals is not going to protect you. Instead, you must look at third party certifications to ensure that your vendor is properly setup to handle your electronics waste. Here is a simple outline of the various certifications that are available and what they mean to you:

  • R2 Responsible Recycling: The second highest standard – This is another all-inclusive certification that covers both environmental aspects as well as data security for vendors.
  • ISO14001: Environmental Management System – This system maps out the framework for companies to follow in order to have an effective environmental management system.
  • ISO9001: Quality Management System – This systems maps out the framework for companies to follow in order to have an effective quality management system.
  • OHSAS18001: Health and Safety Management System – This international standard maps out the framework for companies to follow in order to have an effective health and safety management system.

Taking the time to find properly certified vendors will dramatically decrease the likelihood that your corporate e-waste program will cause regulator problems in the future.

#4: Know All Federal & State Regulations or Find a Proper Vendor

If you are not working with a certified e-waste vendor on a national or global level, it’s critical to establish systems to ensure you are aware of the changing landscape across the entire country and/or world. State regulations are in a state of constant flux right now as the environmental effects of electronics waste become more and more known. With regulations changing so quickly, it is not easy to remain compliant unless you are actively working to ensure full compliance. Having a solid sense of the regulations is critical for your corporate e-waste program to succeed.

#5: Find a Single Vendor For All E-Waste Recycling & Data Destruction

The easiest way to ensure full compliance is to do your due diligence during the selection of an e-waste recycling vendor. If you set a standard of only working with an e-waste recycling vendor who is certified to R2, you can ensure that most of the regulatory needs are going to be met. Of course, it is always a good practice to maintain internal controls as well, but these certifications do a lot to ensure compliance so you don’t have to do as much. The right vendor can help with both your e-waste recycling and data destruction needs in order to simplify the process.

Following these five simple guidelines will help your organization maintain a successful corporate e-waste program and ensure compliance. At the same time, ignoring these rules and cutting corners is going to almost guarantee that your company will suffer the same consequences as dozens of other corporations who have failed to recognize the changing landscape in state and federal regulations for electronics waste.


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