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Electronic recycling’s quandary

» High-tech waste can leave a negative impact on the environment

By NASH NUNNERY

It’s not always about owning the latest or greatest gadget – the economics of high-tech gadgetry encourages disposal.

Discarding a still-useful electronic device for little or no reason has become status quo in recent years for many companies. Purchasing a new printer is ultimately cheaper than buying a set of new ink cartridges.

But with all the “speed of light” advances in computer and mobile device technology there comes a growing problem – what to do with the old devices that suddenly become electronic waste?

E-waste continues to be one of the fastest growing environmental issues, according to the Environmental Protective Agency. Even though junked technology represents only 2 percent of the nation’s trash, it accounts for around 70 percent of the overall toxic waste in landfills.  With the desire for new devices intensifying every year, the problem of improperly disposing of old technology is growing exponentially.

Currently, EPA figures show only 15 to 25 percent of e-waste is being recycled. Do discarded electronics really make that much of an impact on the environment?

Most definitely, says Christopher Lumaghini, who founded Magnolia Data Solutions in Jackson.

“There are many reasons to properly dispose of old electronics but the most basic is they’re toxic to the environment,” he said. “Most contain items such as mercury and lead that when improperly disposed, can impact the environment in a negative way.”

Lumaghini launched Magnolia Data Solutions in 2006 and was one of the first 50 companies in the nation to earn the R2 global certification, the electronics recycling industry’s leading certification. Other MDS certifications include ISO 1401 and Ohsas 18001.

Regarding recycling versus the repurposing of discarded electronics, Lumaghini leaves the choice to his clients.

“We actually do both, as we have some clients that desire the old equipment be destroyed and then others that want it repurposed,” he said.

“Regardless of the choice, all data is destroyed. Per our certifications, we can only repurpose fully working equipment and avoid pushing damaged equipment into the marketplace.

“Additionally, we must maintain testing records on all equipment.”

Handling a client request to dispose of outdated electronics such as tablets, computers, mobile devices and printers varies in each case, said Lumaghini. Once general information is gathered from the client, Magnolia determines if they need a higher level of security.

“If so, we send our mobile shred truck to destroy all data on the devices that are to be discarded on the client’s premises,” he said.

“Once shredding is completed, our guys begin  removing and packing the old equipment on the truck for the trip to our facility.”

Upon arrival at Magnolia, all the discarded electronics are weighed and placed in one of two locations – a sorting area where items are recorded by type, brand, model number, serial number and asset tag. Afterwards, the equipment will travel to the disassembly area for final processing.

“At the completion of any project, we will send a series of forms (certificate of recycling, data destruction sheets,etc.) and finalize anything else the client needs.

“We’re very flexible and have an amazing team of men and women who make everything possible.”

However, government regulation regarding e-waste is almost non-existent, he said.

“Since we are an R2-certified facility, we have regulations that hold us to even high standards and we are audited bi-annually – but there still exists a lack of e-waste regulation generally.” Lumaghini said.

In 2016, Magnolia Data Solutions processed nearly three million pounds of e-waste. The company employs a team of seven technicians at its Fairbanks Street location.

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