Managing E-Waste

Working as head of IT for the Dubai American Academy, I have had to create a e-waste management system and all the policies involved in managing e-waste.

Before any sifting and sorting takes place it helps to create a series of policies that include all the divisions involved in accounting for and deprecating electronics. Most organizations have accounting policies that require equipment to be listed in inventory for a set amount of time.

My school requires laptops to be kept in inventory for five years. This means that we cannot initiate recycling until this standard is met. However, I have found that many items which contribute to e-waste are not part of the accounting inventory, and with good planning you can remove these items sooner than later.

Normally the items not listed are accessories that came with the individual equipment kits. For example, when you buy a desktop CPU it usually comes with multiple power cords and adaptors – most of which you do not need- a keyboard, and a mouse. Once a machine is past a certain point in its life-cycle, repairing it is not an option. If accounting policies demand you store the machine until a certain period of time is reached, then of course you must adhere to this.

However, what you can do is set a policy with accounting that un-itemized accessories be excluded from the time restriction. Many accessories can be donated or immediately recycled. Cables, keyboards, mice, etc occupy space and are difficult to stack and store.

There are many other items you can have listed as exceptions that will make managing e-waste a more fluid experience. Some things I recommend getting listed are:
Laptop Cases
Ethernet Cables
Power Extensions and Adaptors
Redundant Copies of Utility CDs and DVDs (these often come with networking equipment)
Fire or Water damaged items
Physically Damaged LCD or CRT Monitors
Printers that are no longer being manufactured or that require Ink that is no longer manufactured.

Working with your accounting department and creating an exception list for e-waste management will help streamline your efforts to reduce-reuse-recycle. When the time comes for the items that must be carefully inventoried and properly deprecated from the records, you will have more time to focus on the paperwork, and you will save time sorting and organizing what could be tons of hardware.

E-Waste can pile up fast. Closets can become hazardous “fallen-rock zones” if you are not careful. A good E-Waste policy needs a sorting and storage plan. There are two kinds of sorting in my world: sorting and micro-sorting.

Sorting is just what it sounds like. You take things that are similar and put them together. You should figure out what items are potentially toxic, non-recylable, and reusable. Other items can be sorted according to size, likeness, or whatever makes sense to you and your e-waste company.

Micro-sorting is a process of dealing with things like batteries, wiring, broken accessories, plastics, and metals. Around your office or organization there needs to be bins for collecting batteries, cell phones, plastics but not bottles, broken small pieces of metal, wiring/cables, and printer ink cartridges.

All of these things build up and are difficult to store. They do not require paperwork for disposal.

If left as part of the main body of items to be recycled, these things will creat chaos. Wires and cables will spool around into unmanagible knots. Batteries can leak acid. Ink cartridges can leak ink residue. Small metal shards can easily cause injury while reaching in to sort larger items.These items make-up more weight and take-up more space than you might believe.

Micro-sorting is a good habit to get into and it is something you can start TODAY with some startegically placed bins and a schedule for collecting and delivering the items.

Tony DePrato


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