Current realities prompted me to start this investigation. I wanted to know how obsolete hardware could be disposed of, at a profit, and where. I had an old monitor, kept on my apartment balcony, and an old Notebook gathering dust on a shelf in a closet. Both were garbage, for all I knew, but I just couldn’t dump them. I had tried to find environment-friendly waste disposal businesses and quickly discovered that there were quite a few of them in Ukraine. I had visited some of them, only to be told, more often than not, that they were dealing with businesses. Some would reluctantly accept an individual’s old PC.
After that I called another company, knowing they had a ramified e-waste disposal network in Ukraine. A female voice told me I would have to pay 54 hryvnias for my old monitor, that I should think twice before doing business with them. I was amazed, but said I was sure and willing to pay, and they agreed, saying they’d send a van for the monitor and Notebook, free of charge.
UN Environment Program estimates read that this planet annually accumulates some 50 million tons of e-waste, including 500,000 tons in Ukraine (as stated by the Ukrresursy – acronym for Ukraine’s only government-run waste disposal business). Most such waste comes from business offices and banks. The Law “On Accounting and Financial Reporting in Ukraine” reads that businesses must keep track of their hardware and dispose of it after 4-10 years of usage, depending on trademark and service life – but not before contacting a special “state enterprise,” requesting that its specialists examine their office equipment, receiving their findings to the effect that this or that equipment is obsolete, to be written off their budget. Only then they can sign a waste disposal contract. Red tape, of course, but otherwise there would be fines piling up.
To junk or dump obsolete office hardware is a question that often appears in social networks. This is proof that an increasing number of citizens are becoming environmentally conscious, on the one hand. On the other hand, many users conclude that dumping old hardware is easier and simpler than paying for its recycling, even if one can find a firm that will do it at a reasonable price. Experts say there are firms that will do so free of charge, considering that some hardware will end up at the landfill anyway.
Oleh SAVYTSKY, expert with the National Ecological Center: “There are parts of hardware and other office equipment that can’t be recycled the usual way. Plastic and ordinary metal parts can, but there are parts made of dangerous metals that require special recycling techniques, but this spells dangerous waste that has to be stored somewhere. We have such special storage facilities, but in the long run no landfills or special storage facilities will solve this problem because the amount of junked office equipment keeps on an upward curve. Also, Ukraine lacks comprehensive recycling techniques. We have a number of e-waste recycling businesses, but they can recycle limited amounts; they can’t solve the e-waste disposal problem because there is too much waste to handle.”
Ukraine lacks e-waste disposal laws, considering that the EU member countries have laws aimed at reducing the amount of this waste when manufacturing PCs and hardware components. For one thing, the usage of lead is prohibited and the manufacturer is held legally responsible for the quality of his goods. Dell, Sony, Nokia, and Samsung have their own e-waste recycling programs; their branches accept obsolete PCs, upgrade them or use some hardware components for new projects. This won’t work in Ukraine because there are no laws to this effect.
Savytsky: “We have to learn to cooperate with the hardware manufacturer, importer or supplier, so they can be held responsible for their products. Companies that deliver hardware to Ukraine must also state their recycling programs. As it is, hardware keeps being imported and sold, period.”
Unless the state works out an adequate way to rid the user of his/her old PC, the user will have to get the situation under control. First, if his/her hardware can still work, it can be handed over to those who need it but can’t afford it – village grade schools or orphanages. Second, one can ask around and find a company that will take care of one’s old PC on acceptable terms and conditions, but this takes time. There is another option proposed by environmentalists. One can submit a formal request to the local authority, asking to explain how one is supposed to dispose of one’s obsolete hardware.