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‘Mass exodus’ from work to home offices poses e-scrap challenges

The Covid-19 pandemic has prompted many companies around the world to invest in laptops to allow employees to work from home, according to a study conducted by data destruction solutions provider Blancco.

The company says the growing trend shows how Covid-19 has created challenges around e-waste and sustainability – and therefore opportunities for recyclers. ‘The Rising Tide of E-Waste’ study reveals that 47% of large enterprises created roles responsible for implementing and ensuring compliance policies specifically to deal with the e-waste issues generated during the pandemic.

Purchases of new technology to facilitate employees’ transition to remote working during the pandemic has sparked fears over both data security and e-waste as businesses increase the number of devices they own and, ultimately, the amount of data that sits within them. More than 53 million tonnes of e-waste was produced globally in 2019 – this year is set to be even higher.

Blancco’s report concludes that nearly all enterprises (97%) had to purchase laptops, with 75% buying the devices brand-new to deal with the mass exodus from traditional offices to the home. However, the study found that 78% of respondents agreed that ‘Covid-19 caused unnecessary short-term investment in technology which will leave us at risk with data being stored on a wide range of devices’. According to Blancco, this demonstrates high awareness of the security risks among decision-makers.

Risk of data breaches

‘Enterprises will inevitably face challenges following the switch to remote working but the importance of employing appropriate methods of data sanitization when new devices are eventually decommissioned remains imperative,’ says Blancco. ‘If enterprises fail to do this, they run the risk of data breaches and regulatory penalties.’

Considering how these new challenges might be overcome, the survey explored current approaches to e-waste management and found that while 44% of enterprises did have e-waste policies in place for end-of-life device management, they were not yet being communicated or implemented. However, the survey identifies that e-waste initiatives tend to struggle within the modern enterprise due to a lack of ownership around the communication of policies, implementation and compliance.

The flood of technology investment since the beginning of the pandemic has created clear issues for both e-waste and secure data management, Blancco argues. ‘The switch to remote work spurred on a wave of new device purchases but these new, widely distributed, devices have left enterprises feeling vulnerable.’

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