A few months ago, I mused in this space about whether the decline of paper communications (newspapers, notebooks etc), and subsequent rise of electronic media, had been good or bad for the environment. After all, I asked, hasn’t the electronics industry created a lot of waste? (Bias alert -- I still love my Moleskin - see below!)
That drew an invitation from Matt Weiner, marketing manager of IT solutions for Samsung Canada, to chat about whether we should be concerned about e-waste clogging our landfills.
In fact, Weiner seemed to share my worry that people aren’t sufficiently aware of what happens to old electronics when they’re no longer functional. He explained that Samsung was involved in a survey of businesses with between five and 100 employees that looked at whether purchasers of IT equipment considered end-of-life issues for the products. The results were not encouraging. “It was very disappointing to us that many purchasers making a big decision to buy a system do not think what the heck will happen to it at the end of life,’ says Weiner.
But end users, he insists, are just one piece of the puzzle. “The user has to have some responsibility when they get rid of items, but manufacturers should be making it easier for them to do that,” he says.
To encourage consumers, Samsung has launched a program called Recycling Direct that allows people to drop off used electronics at 45 locations across Canada. From there, product goes to their recycling partner, Global Electric Electronic Processing (GEEP) where plastics, glass and hazardous materials such as cathode ray tubes are removed and electronic components are taken apart and sorted. Plastics are recycled or converted into diesel fuel; and metals like copper and iron can be re-used.
This program is expected to expand in 2011 to over 75 locations. Non-Samsung-branded electronics are taken, but a small fee is charged.
Weiner says this process is vastly preferable to having waste shipped overseas as scrap, where highly dangerous materials are sorted by poorly paid workers, many of whom are children.
“Our promise to customers, whether they are business or consumer, is that no product will be sold off to third-word or hit a landfill or go back into the waste stream,” says Weiner.
While he’s enthusiastic about the recycling program, Weiner still thinks there could be more awareness of the issue of e-waste. Given the chance, he says, most people will choose to recycle. He point to the company’s experience at the Green Living Show . “We had a program (under which) you could get in for free if you dropped off used electronics. The response was overwhelming; 10,000 people gained access by recycling,” he says.
Confidence that the company will do the right thing is one reason to buy from a major brand, says Weiner. “Most major manufacturers are now doing a recycling program,” he says. “For the most part, it’s the smaller vendors, where it’s some weird name you have never heard of and that’s often made in a third world country, where you need to be careful. Their rules and regulations may not be the same as here — so you won’t be sure.”
Tomorrow: Let’s talk about plastic bags. Seriously, folks.