Every year, the number of purchased electronic devices increases by 2.5 billion tons worldwide. We buy more tablets, computers, smartphones, headsets, keyboards and screens to meet our needs at work and home. This, of course, results in an increase in so-called e-waste.
In 2019 alone, the world generated 53.6 billion tons of e-waste. This is equivalent to the weight of 350 cruise ships.
In May the same year, CBS approved a Campus Sustainability Profile with goals for 2020–2025. Under the section concerning ‘environmental aspects’, it states that CBS should “implement an item-exchange system across campus to limit new item purchases” as well as “exploring circular economy strategies”.
So what action is CBS taking to reduce purchases of new electronic devices?
“CBS has a continuous focus on recycling. Right now, we have several initiatives in action to increase the recycling percentage. It is an area of importance, so it is something we will continue to work with in the coming years,” writes Kirsten Winther Jørgensen, University Director at CBS, in an email to CBS WIRE.
Asked whether there is a set target for the recycling percentage, Kirsten Winther Jørgensen writes:
“We have had some challenges in gathering baseline data for recycling in, for example, the waste area. But to establish both a baseline and a set goal would be significant for our continuous efforts to increase recycling.”
In an article, CBS WIRE has investigated what happens to employees’ old computers when employees resign, or the devices simply do not function anymore.
It is the company BuyBackIT that manages CBS’ used computers, phones and other electronic equipment. But how does CBS ensure that the company manages the equipment responsibly and actually resells and recycles it?
“For electronics, we have agreements with external companies that purchase the used equipment when it is estimated that it can no longer be of use at CBS. CBS receives a certificate documenting that all data have been deleted, and we also have an income based on the company’s resale of our equipment,” she writes to CBS WIRE.
According to Jeppe Udklit Svendsen, Head of IT Support at CBS, it is likely that employees have used electronic equipment lying around in their offices that is ready for recycling. But there is no list giving an overview of electronic devices available for reuse internally or ready for recycling.
Kirsten Winther Jørgensen does not go into the specific question of whether CBS should compile a collective overview of the amount of unused electronic equipment in the organization, but answers in the email:
“It is likely that used equipment is lying around in CBS’ units and departments, and I can only encourage people to reach out to IT Support for help to get dispose of the equipment in a responsible way. Also, when employees are buying new phones and computers, they are informed that the old one must be handed over to IT, so that we ensure that equipment is sent for recycling.”
Item exchange system
There is no central unit at CBS that decides when employees can receive new computers, tablets, or phones, but the decision is made by local managers. And that involves a certain responsibility, explains Kirsten Winther Jørgensen.
“There’s an important responsibility in considering possibilities for recycling equipment locally from, for example, resigned employees. Equipment is continuously upgraded and repaired by the IT Support team, but they must estimate whether the repairs are worth managing in house.”
CBS’ Campus Sustainability Strategy Plan from 2019 states that CBS wants to implement an item exchange. Kirsten Winther Jørgensen explains that the system is being implemented for furniture in 2022 but does not mention whether a similar system for computers and other electronic devices is in the offing.
“We will implement an item exchange system for furniture in 2022. It has been delayed due to the lockdowns, when we spent our time making sure that furniture in CBS’ depots could be offered to employees as equipment for their home offices, and through that be reused. We already and continuously explore the option of reuse of furniture from depots, but a formalized exchange system will optimize this process,” she writes.
All in all, the attention to the issue is a good excuse to consider other measures for increasing the level of recycling, she says.
“It is good to turn the spotlight on recycling, and it is a good opportunity for us to look into what we can do to further inform about the need to ensure life-extending measures and recycle equipment,” she writes.