Organisational E-Waste

I’m currently fighting a losing battle on keeping good-enough equipment out of the recycling bin, because of bureaucratic nonsense. Assuming the recyclers are actually tearing down the components, we know that often a device isn’t fully recycled anyway. And I work for an organisation which supposedly, you know, actively fights climate change and has “sustainable development goals,” yet we sure do seem to constantly be getting rid of equipment that COULD find a use or could at least go to a better home.

I’ve got a 2010 MacBook Air that won’t take any kind of macOS (it appears there’s some kind of fault with the proprietary SSD controller?), BUT I have been able Linux on it. The department that asked me to install a modern macOS on it wanted to use it as a guest laptop. Now, seems to me, if it can run Elementary OS (as it does), it should perfectly work for that purpose. The interface is intuitive, and I have Firefox set up for it in the dock. We can’t support it, but I don’t really see a need to. If it were to break, then it would be disposed of, but it isn’t dead yet.

Yet, a supervisor saw I did that, figured out what I was planning to do, and basically has stopped me from handing it back like this to the department in question (it belongs to the department though, not us). I’ve managed to save a few other items from the bin, but they’re still organisational assets. I’m working with our inventory department to set up a formal auction, so at the very least maybe I can bid on everything and take it home, but it will take months likely to get that kind of thing rolling.

I f*cking HATE this attitude, it’s unnecessary, and it’s killing the planet. And it’s a major stressor in my job, I have to admit.

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There is a line between ‘could find a use’ and stuff we need to do to run the business. Often choosing to keep machines within a warranty means it’s a known cost and someone elses problem if it needs repairs.

Having a run to failure model means unknown surprises could cause downtime you don’t want. As easy as it might be to re-deploy a modern laptop to a user, it’s a pain. Worse yet, downtime in a client facing device isn’t a great look.

Disposal into a random bin isn’t usually the norm that I’ve seen. Usually it’s to a disposal company so they can get confirmation of recycling of some sort. Others will have a donate option where the machines go to a charity that clean them up and send them into disadvantaged communities. But all of these options are not about keeping machines longer, but hopefully finding them a better place to go. (often they destroy the HDDs though for security reasons vs multiple overwrites, but this also depends on the industry you work in).

When it comes to internal auctions, the issue becomes the perception of people getting something for nothing/cheap when others don’t. I’ve seen infighting over these things lead to 100% external disposal companies just to get away from those issues.

All of that said, good on you for trying to improve the process.

I get all that.

Problem is, we’re literally THE supranational organisation tasked with saving the planet. We’re not a business. I’m perfectly fine with giving them to charity/communities in need IF we did that, it would be very in-keeping with walking our talk.

Yes, we comply with whatever green guidelines exist. Frankly this isn’t good enough when Greta is giving speeches from our lecterns in front of our flag. I know I am a very small cog in a very large bureaucracy (one of the largest on the planet, if not quite to our fictional version’s size in something like The Expanse), but still it’s very frustrating that I feel we could do better. We have these lavish events where we talk about climate change and sustainability, and yet…

I’m venting.