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Obsolete Electronic Devices: What to do?

Posted by Henry Cheang | July 16, 2014 8:00 AM

A rare, rare urban creature

Recently, I spotted a now-rare species of urban creature (in fact, it’s so rare now that I thought it was extinct). Nope, I’m not talking about some species of forgotten rodent. I’m referring to the once-ubiquitous flip phone.  

Electronic Waste

On a more serious note, electronic devices with cell phones being the best example evolve at such a bewildering rate that all advanced technologies become outdated shortly after their introduction. This is obsolescence on a global scale. Each year, handset companies put out new models of their offerings because they know that the “most advanced phone” doesn’t turn heads for long!

That said, fast rates of technology adoption by companies isn’t necessarily fad-chasing. After all, electronic devices of all kinds have improved and expanded the business world, and new technology almost invariably enriches firms and their clients. That’s why it’s important for businesses of all stripes to adopt and adapt to new technology.

That leaves us with an important question, however: What do we do with our obsolete devices?

As explained in the Canadian Consumer Handbook, electronic waste (or e-waste; this includes cell phones, computers, televisions, printers, cameras, etc.) contains toxic materials that is hazardous to the environment and, more importantly, to human health. We never think about it because our electronics are almost always encased in beautiful, shiny enclosures, but they all contain non-trivial amounts of materials such as mercury, lead, cadmium, and arsenic.

We must therefore avoid simply throwing away electronic waste in the trash, at all costs!

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Easy ways of recycling your electronic waste

Of course, proper disposal of electronic waste is an involved, complicated, and hazardous undertaking. Recycling electronics, however, is not very complicated at all. In fact, for the average consumer, there is a wide variety of programs and organizations that have developed simple and effective systems to ensure proper management of electronic waste:

  • If you want to get rid of a small device, you can simply put it in an electrobac deposit bin. You will find electrobac bins in frequently visited places such as schools, grocery stores, or shopping centers throughout the greater Montreal area. This is amazingly convenient; you can recycle your electronics in a safe and environmentally friendly way while going grocery shopping!
  • If you want to recycle larger devices or if you do not have an electrobac bin in your area, simply visit the Electronic Products Recycling Association (EPRA)’s website to find the drop-off point closest to you. The EPRA is also active in other Canadian provinces. The exceptions are Ontario and Alberta, which each have their own programs, Ontario Electronic Stewardship and Alberta Recycling, respectively.
  • The EPRA also offers services for businesses. You’re an IT manager and you don’t know what to do with all your outdated devices? No problem! Two choices are available to you: Do business with one of the Recycler Qualification Office-approved, EPRA-Québec-affiliated reusers, or make a pick-up request to the EPRA. In some locations, businesses have the option of personally dropping off their e-waste.
  • RecycleMyCell.ca provides a list of various alternatives in Quebec regarding cell phone recycling. You can also drop off your old devices at most cell-phone providers.
  • When it comes to computers, you can donate them to the Computers for Schools (CFS) Program, which repairs and refurbishes computers and distributes them to schools, public libraries, not-for-profit learning organizations, etc.
  • Or perhaps you could transform your obsolete electronics into works of art? It’s hard to believe your old monitor could be at the heart of a prestigious expo, but that’s actually possible! Many artists around the world create art out of old electronic parts. Notable artists in this domain include Franco Recchia of Italy and Steven Rodrig of Spain.


Don’t forget to properly wipe your personal data!

A final note: Do not forget to remove any personal information on your computer, cell phone, or other electronic devices. More to the point, be sure to erase the data permanently. Most people don’t realize it, but the simple delete/recycle/remove function found in the various operating system desktops (i.e., Windows, Android, etc.) don’t actually remove data permanently.

Sure, it’s hard for you to personally access the info after you’ve deleted it, but in the hands of a competent hacker or data recovery specialist, that data may as well have never been erased. Even factory resets are no guarantee that your data is gone. If you have data/pictures/recordings that you don’t want unauthorized people to see or abuse, then you need to take the following precautions:

  • For any device, following factory reset, repopulate the data with benign junk data (e.g., a video of trees blowing in the wind), and then wipe that data off.
  • Install and use secure-wipe solutions (these vary by platform)
  • On personal computers that likely have sensitive enterprise data, it’s a good idea to hire professionals to oversee the full destruction of the hard drives. This particular type of specialist will actually physically destroy the drives (via such means as drilling many holes through the devices or smashing them with hammers) and provide you with certification that your secrets are no longer available and recoverable by hackers.

I know this last bit sounded extreme, but your business is your livelihood! It’s a bad idea to run the risk of compromising the safety of your company’s confidential information.

I hope this brief overview answers your questions about replacing your obsolete devices. Here at Cimpl, we fully understand the importance of developing and adopting technology that keeps or even sets the pace of the cutting edge of technology. Although we cannot help you get rid of your electronic waste, Cimpl offers you innovative solutions for IT and Telecom Expense Management that helps you keep ahead of the technology curve.

Do you know any other programs or associations dedicated to recycling electronic devices? Or do you have other solutions to propose? Don’t hesitate to share your experiences with us in the comments section; we’ll add them to the article!

Happy recycling!

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Topics: Company Culture, Telecom Expense Management, Wireless management, Mobile Devices, Data, Electronic Devices, Recycling

Written by Henry Cheang

Henry has a lifelong passion for science and technology. This enthusiasm is put to good use in a cutting-edge software company like Cimpl. As product marketer, Henry researches market and user needs to develop user and buyer personas, contributes to product design, and helps coordinate product messaging. Henry also writes nearly the entirety of all documentation for Cimpl’s many successful platforms. In his spare time, Henry devotes much energy to family, friends, and martial arts. Henry recently completed his Master’s in Business and Administration from Concordia University, where he specialized in the study of marketing, organizational behavior, and corporate governance. He has authored academic papers on the latter two subjects; these papers form part of his bibliography of over 20 professional research publications.

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