What do IT asset disposal services do with plastic?

IT equipment is made from a variety of materials that can be recycled. Of course, there is plenty of metal in equipment – including monitors, printers, and computers – but they also contain plastic and this can be recycled.

The problem with plastic waste

The amount of pollution caused by plastic that has been thrown away is well documented, and here in the UK, the government has taken several measures to tackle the problem of waste plastic. They introduced a 5p charge for carrier bags in shops, are considering a ban on single-use plastic straws and cotton buds, and are also looking at ways to cut down the use of takeaway coffee cups.

What can IT asset disposal services do?

Each year, there are countless computers and other pieces of IT equipment that businesses no longer need. A system that was current a few years ago is now obsolete. Some media, such as disks and tapes, are no longer used. Worldwide, there is a vast number of obsolete computers and a whole industry of IT asset disposal services that have developed ways to deal with the waste IT equipment.

Some IT equipment can be refurbished and sold to people who no longer need the latest models. There are charities that send working computers to developing countries where users are not concerned about having high spec machines. This still leaves a lot of IT equipment that has come to the end of its useful life and needs its components stripped and recycled.

Plastic is removed from items including printers, monitors, and laptops. After the plastic has been recovered by an IT asset disposal service, it is known as E-plastic. Most E-plastic is shipped to China where it is sorted into various grades to be made into pellets. These are classed as low-grade plastic that can be used to make items like water tanks, outdoor furniture and decking.

Some E-plastic is recycled for use in IT equipment. Ink cartridges for printers are often made using recycled plastic. In 2014 Dell launched the first computer with all plastic components made from E-plastic. Dell practices what its calls Extended Producer Responsibility, which is a program to ensure that a manufacturer has a lifetime responsibility for equipment it manufactures, including the end-of-life phase when equipment is obsolete.

Some plastics used in IT equipment contain toxins that could be a health hazard, but researchers are working on safe ways to remove any harmful chemicals in the plastic before it is recycled.

What is the aim?

The ultimate goal of the government is for materials to be used over and over again. IT disposal services are helping this aim by recycling plastic, metal and other materials they recover from IT equipment.

The final episode of the recent BBC series Blue Planet II showing an albatross feeding chicks plastic, which shocked viewers and highlighted the dangers of waste plastic, and presenter David Attenborough’s heartfelt words on the importance of caring for the planet resonated with many. IT disposal services are doing their bit to reduce plastic waste.