Mrs Green’s WEEE recycling dilema

green officeI’ve been eagerly following the seven month campaign from the Guardian, called “Live Better”

Each month, they focus on a different area of sustainability.

The first month was about reducing food waste.

Last month was about reducing electricity consumption.

And this month is all about the 3 Rs – reducing, reusing and recycling.

Find out more about the Challenge here.

Most recycling I find pretty straight forward.

I make the most of my kerbside collections where I can recycle tins, glass and paper.

Our council also collected green waste once a fortnight, but we keep most of ours to compost at home.

Items like tetra pak cartons, plastic bottles, cardboard and batteries we store and take to our local household recycling centre the next time we are passing by.

But it’s WEEE recycling that causes me a bit of angst.

WEEE is basically anything that requires a plug or battery to operate it.

I have no problem if I have an old DVD player, electric heater or digital clock that has stopped working.

But because I have my own online business, we tend to get through more than our fair share of computer equipment.

Even though I try and buy for longevity, the manufacturers are not on my side.

My first laptop was an IBM – that went well for a couple of years then started to overheat to the point where it would switch itself off randomly.

When you’re in the middle of coding a website for a client, that’s not ok!

I then bought a new Samsung laptop and no word of a lie, 2 weeks after the warranty ran out, the machine died on me.

I replaced the keyboard, tried to reformat it and nothing worked.

I then bought a second hand Dell netbook. I’ve had it over a year and it’s going well, but it’s got very slow due to Windows updates, despite a complete reformat.

So I bought extra memory for it, but now I’m noticing the fans are on more and the track pad is getting too hot to touch and I’m worried history is going to repeat itself with overheating.

Little Miss Green had an old laptop which also overheated and became so slow it was virtually useless.

As I do online banking and store details about my client’s website on my machine I’m extremely security- conscious.

And this is where recycling WEEE causes me issues.

I don’t really WANT to chuck my laptops, with valuable information on, into a WEEE skip at my local recycling centre!

I saw a documentary once where a guy had recycled his household papers and they had found a credit card statement of his somewhere in India.

As part of the programme they turned up on his doorstep with the statement in hand and he couldn’t believe how many miles it had traveled!

If that can happen with a piece of paper, what could happen with your computer information?

I understand that even if you reformat your machine, everything you’ve ever done can be traced by people in the know.

So although the chances of someone getting access to my machine is tiny, it’s still a risk I’m not prepared to take.

My research on available options led me to companies like TDS Safeguard who ensure all equipment is securely disposed.

You’re even issued with WEEE certificates upon completion of the secure destruction of electrical equipment.

This means you have a full and thorough audit trail and if you have CSR policies and obligations for your business, these are met.

What about you – how do you dispose of old computers? Do you just put them in your local WEEE area or use a private company to securely dispose of it?