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Surprising but true; the COVID-19 pandemic has had a tremendous impact on e-waste generation and management. Several researches and surveys have shown that due to COVID-19 induced lockdowns and the subsequent change in the work culture, about 50 % enterprises worldwide had to shift their focus towards managing the ‘no-longer-in-use’ electronics.

On one hand, as the digitalization of many businesses happened, old devices were left redundant. This substantially increased the pile of e-waste in most enterprises. On the other hand, as the place of work shifted from office to home, many companies had to buy portable devices like laptops, tablets etc.

Companies based in countries like Germany and the US bought more smartphones in comparison to laptops while tablets occupied the third place in terms of number of purchases made. In France, Japan and the UK laptops and tablets were purchased more than smartphones.

The purchases of personal devices were mainly for the children of the staff regarding their online schooling. Some businesses having sensitive information and data went in for new devices which they then cycled through their office to include security apps and software. In some time, when things get back to 100 % normal state the business owners expect the devices to reach back to the company and form part of a shared device system.

Data security

The challenge of e-waste management increased because businesses almost overnight increased the number of devices they owned and used. Also enhancing the amount of data stored on each one of them. Transition to innovative and updated technology to enable employees’ operation from remote work locations due to the safety reasons also gave birth to the issue of data security. Already dealing with the undesired short-term investment in novel technologies, businesses had to face the added challenge of not just increased volume of e-waste but also data security.

The best part is that the burgeoning issue of e-waste management in such a crucial time is not overlooked and formal methods are being considered to dispose of electronic waste. The issue of protection of confidential data during the process of disposing of e-waste has worried the decision makers. The right way of data sanitization may sometimes be overlooked as part of e-waste policies, but the desperate time calls for engagement of best practices with respect to data management. This will not just minimize the hazardous impact of e-waste on the environment but also rule out the threat of a data breach once the devices reach end-of-life.

Policy

It is noteworthy that various businesses have put into practice management of e-waste as one of the aftermaths of the pandemic, exhibiting corporate social responsibility (CSR), but they are confused about how to handle the unused electrical and electronics devices once they reach end-of-life.

Many of these businesses have the necessary e-waste policy in place for the management of Waste from Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) but the same has not been implemented in time. Further many planned e-waste endeavours struggled amid the modern enterprise due to a lack of ownership with respect to the communication pertaining to the compliance and implementation of the policies.

The studies also revealed that 27% of the respondents were willing to erase the data in the device for reuse, 28% wished to erase it for resale and only 12% were ready to erase the data for recycling.

Way forward

These companies must hire e-waste disposal services of e-waste recycling companies like Namo E-Waste. With its e-waste recycling plant in India and many e-waste collection centres across the country, Namo can easily find solutions to the challenges faced by such companies regarding e-waste management and recycling. The companies just need to search for an ‘e-waste collection centre near me’, Namo will appear to rescue them!