Donate or Recycle
When we referred to sustainability, we tend to concentrate on how the IT leaders can help their companies cut energy consumption, that’s normal since that’s the most natural target to quantify. However, there are other targets more critically involved in sustainability than managing companies’ appetite for lowering the costs and take away everything that is no longer functional.
Sustainability is the long-term maintenance of well-being, which has environmental, economic, and social dimensions, and encompasses the concept of stewardship, the responsible management of resource use.
Recycle plays a significant role on this. However, electronics recycling or Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment as it’s formally named might not be necessarily the best example of sustainability in a company, community, city or country.
It has been proven that informal processing of electronic waste (discarded electrical or electronic devices) in developing countries may cause severe health and pollution problems, even when these countries are most likely to reuse and repair electronics.
I used to recycle old equipment in the past. One day that I started to wonder how that material was processed. I did the relevant research and noticed that there was no process at all. Basically, the “recyclers” were just throwing the equipment in the standard garbage dump, at least in most countries in Latin America.
Since sustainability involves environmental, economic and social dimensions, better options were required. The decision to recycle in this particular case was against all the aspects covered in sustainability. It was undoubtedly an irresponsible management of the resources the company owned.
I received a call one day from a school that has meager resources. They were asking for the feasibility to donate some old equipment to them; angered to have access to some technology. They dreamed of having their students using the Internet and learn Microsoft Office as their optimal scenario. Pretty basic, don’t you think? Several old computers can perform those tasks easily. What for some is junk is another person’s treasure.
That call opened my mind in many ways. Most of the computers we were “throwing away” were still functional to perform that and even more. I thought in my mind, does it mean that we can do something to benefit these children’s education? I was amazed at the possibility of being part of this.
The benefits that this school received that donation were terrific. We set up a small computer lab and gave some of our time to connect them to a network and so forth. The smile in those kids paid the whole thing.
We tend to forget that there are many people with little or no access to resources or even education. If we can help these children achieve a good learning by donating equipment, even when is not top nudge, we are becoming part of “creating” a better world, with more and equal opportunities for everyone.
I felt extremely glad and happy to see all the things those kids learned and how a simple set of old computers changed their perspective of education. They were now “connected” to the world and that opened a range of options that were unthinkable to them months before the donation.
That first experience was edifying, so I started to present donating options instead of recycling options when the equipment was still in good shape. I proudly say that many low-income schools were benefited with the donations offered, not only because of the equipment but with the things their students and teachers achieved with them.
Donating equipment in good shape covers all dimensions that a real sustainability has:
Environmental: not sending the machines to garbage dump guarantee not provoking or causing health or pollution problems for bad and informal processing of electronic waste. It might not be necessarily the case in developed countries that count with formal and responsible recycling companies.
Economic: schools with lower income can find a financial relief when receiving donations. On the other hand, donating is cheaper than hiring a recycle company to take your equipment.
Social: providing this type of assistance and support will impact in a good way our society as it offers similar opportunities for everyone.
While the amount of electronic materials that we produce as waste is growing very fast, the need for adequately disposing and recycling is also increasing. Nevertheless, whether the equipment is recycled or donated, it is essential to properly dispose of our old gear to prevent damage to our environment.