When you dispose of your old electronic devices (e-devices) in the wrong way, it can cause harm to the environment and also cause negative personal effects.  

For instance, if you just throw your old electronic device in the bin, your old laptop may end up in the hands of someone who will use it to gain access to your personal information and data.  

Alternatively, your electronic waste (e-waste) may end up in an uncontrolled landfill where harmful earth elements from old device can leak into the surrounding soil and groundwater, affecting the nearby environment and the health and well-being of living beings.  

The impact of e-Waste on the environment

The improper handling of e-waste can result in detrimental effects for the environment.  

The increase accumulation of e-waste presents challenges in waste management. Landfills and incineration of electronic waste can release toxic substances into the environment, polluting surrounding areas and posing long-term risks. e-waste often contains hazardous materials such as lead, mercury, cadmium, and flame retardants, which can leach into the soil and water, causing further environmental contamination.  

Furthermore, improper disposal of e-waste damage the consumption of natural resources. The extraction of raw materials from the Earth's crust for electronic devices leads to the destruction of habitats, deforestation, and the loss of biodiversity. In addition, mining operations require massive amounts of energy, contributing to greenhouse gas emissions and exacerbating climate change. 

Addressing these issues requires proper recycling and disposal methods to minimize the negative impact on our planet and human well-being. 

The process of recycling e-waste conserves energy. This is because recycling requires far less energy than mining for new materials. Another benefit of recycling is that it reduces the number of carbon emissions produced by manufacturing new products. 

Furthermore, reusing unwanted material conserves natural resources because we can reuse rather than mine for more. This also protects the environment because we do not have to excavate land to access raw materials. 

The impact of e-Waste on Health 

Plastic materials are an essential component in the manufacture of electronic devices, and unfortunately, when disposed of these plastics don't break down like a lot of other materials. They degrade into microplastic and nanoplastic particles that are harmful to animals, plants, and humans who can ingest, inhale and absorb them. Once ingested these particles can accumulate within organs releasing harmful toxins into the body.  

In addition, the metals used to construct electronic devices can be hazardous to our health if they are thrown away haphazardly. When the metals in e-waste are dumped into uncontrolled landfills, over time the metals oxidise and ionise into the surrounding soil, eventually this can lead to the contamination of our produce and drinking water. Many of these metals contain toxic chemicals that can cause negative effects on our health. 

The impact of e-Waste on Cybersecurity

Improper disposal of e-waste can have significant impacts on cybersecurity. Here are some of the potential consequences to your cybersecurity: 

  1. Data Breaches: E-waste often contains sensitive personal or corporate data, including passwords, financial records, and intellectual property. If e-waste is not properly disposed of, it can end up in the hands of unauthorized individuals who can extract and exploit this data for malicious purposes, leading to data breaches and identity theft. 
  1. Information Leakage: E-waste may contain residual data that was not properly wiped or destroyed. This residual data can be recovered by skilled attackers using various techniques. If e-waste is not disposed of securely, sensitive information may leak, compromising individuals or organizations.
  1. Malware Propagation: Discarded electronic devices, especially storage media such as hard drives, USB drives, or smartphones, may contain malware. Suppose these devices are not correctly disposed of. In that case, they can end up in the hands of unsuspecting users who may inadvertently connect them to their computers or networks, leading to the spread of malware and potential compromise of systems. 
  1. Social Engineering Attacks: Attackers can use discarded devices to gather information for social engineering attacks. By analyzing e-waste, they can obtain valuable insights into an organization's infrastructure, systems, or personnel, aiding in the execution of targeted attacks or phishing campaigns. 
  1. Infrastructure Vulnerabilities: E-waste may include networking equipment or control systems used in critical infrastructure. If these devices are not securely disposed of, they could be acquired by attackers who can study and identify vulnerabilities in the equipment, leading to potential exploits and compromises of essential services. 

Steps to secure your e-Waste 

Here are some tips on how you can take measures to secure your electronic devices before responsibly and sustainably disposing of your e-Waste. Don't worry, we will divide each solution into sections for PC- Laptops and Tablets-Phones, where you can immediately navigate through our table of contents. 

Backup: Save Important Information 

To protect your data, make sure you have a backup before disposing of your computer. 

PC/Laptop: How to back up your computer 

Here are some ways you could back up your PC: 

  1. External hard drive: Such as the Toshiba's Canvio, LaCie, or WD MyBook is essential for storing your files. Many other options are available, but make sure that your chosen drive is compatible with your computer.
  2. Cloud-based backup services: like Dropbox, Google Drive or iCloud offer free storage space. For a fee, you can get more storage space if needed. For example, Box gives you 10GB of file storage for free, Google Drive gives you 15GB of storage for free, and Apple iCloud gives you 5GB free. 
  3. External USB Drive: There are many types of USBs to choose from, with different amounts of storage space and prices. While USB flash drives are often less expensive than their counterparts, they don't offer as much storage space. But they still make a great alternative. 

*Tip: It is always a great idea to have copies of your files in two places so that if something happens to your primary storage (like a computer crash), you'll still have access to your information. 

Phone/Tablet: How to back up your device 

Android: via Google's cloud service 

  • Navigate to Settings > Google >Backup. 
  • You can view your Google account storage space available by looking at the top of the page. 
  • Below, you'll see an option to back up to Google Drive. Make sure it is ON by clicking the toggle switch beside it. If you have Google One installed, it might say Backup to Google One instead. 
  • Tap the "Back up now" button below. It may take several hours to complete your first backup (if you have never backed up your device before).  
  • Below your device screen is a summary of your backup settings. To ensure that all of your photos and videos are synced with Google Photos, tap "Back up & Sync" and make sure it is turned on. You can toggle this setting in the Google Photos app menu. 
  • Below the Backup details section, tap your Google Account data to choose what information gets synced with your Google Account. (Also accessible via Settings > Accounts [Your Google Account] > Account sync). 

IOS: Via iCloud service 

  • Navigate to Settings > *your device name > iCloud > iCloud Backup. 
  • Toggle and turn on the iCloud toggle switch.  

*iCloud automatically backs up your iPhone to iCloud when iPhone is connected to power and connected to Wi-Fi. 

Mobile devices Via Windows OS 

For Android device 

  • Plug and connect your phone to a USB port on your PC / laptop. 
  • In our device, drag down the "notification" and look for the notification from your device System: "Connected to a computer via USB, Tap for more options". 
  • Navigate for a File transfer option and select it. 
  • A window should now open on your PC, or you can use "Windows File Explorer" to access your phone listed in the left pane under This PC. 
  • To back up files on your device, navigate to the appropriate folders and copy-paste the desired files. This is not the most user-friendly layout, but it is the simplest method without the need for third-party software. 

For iOS device 

  • Connect your iPhone to your desktop/laptop. 
  • You can download the iTunes app for your Windows PC. In the iTunes app on your PC, click the iPhone button near the top left of the window. 
  • Click "Summary" > "Backup now" (*located below backups) 
  • To protect your backup data by encrypting it with a password, select "Encrypt local backup." > "Set password." 

Tip: To see the backups stored on your computer, choose Edit > Preferences > Devices. Look for a lock icon next to the encrypted backups in the Devices section. 

Mobile devices Via Mac OS 

For Android device 

  • Download the Android File Transfer app, and install on your Mac. 
  • Connect your phone to your Mac by plugging it into a USB port. 
  • On your Mac, an Android File Transfer window will show up on your screen with a list of folders and files on your phone. 
  • To back up your files, go to the appropriate folders on your device and copy-paste the desired files. You may need to search for the files you want; for example, your photos will be in a folder labeled DCIM\Camera.

For iOS device  

  • Connect your iPhone to your desktop/laptop. 
  • Use the Finder on your Mac to back up your iPhone by selecting your iPhone. To back up your iPhone using the Finder, you need macOS 10.15 or later. 
  • In the Finder window's (top) toolbar, select "General". 
  • Select "Back up all of the data on your iPhone to this Mac." 
  • To protect your backup data by encrypting it with a password, select "Encrypt local backup." 
  • Select "Back up now.

Erase: Delete all the files on your hard drive. 

Many people believe that if they delete files off their laptops and PCs, the information is completely gone, making their devices safe from hackers. Internal hard drives keep your information even when you delete it from your laptop. Thus, there are 2 methods for permanently deleting data on your hard drive: 

PC/Laptop: How to erase your computer hard drive 

Option 1. Physical approach 

To make sure your laptop's hard drive is physically destroyed, follow these steps: 

  • First unplug your laptop/PC from any power source and allow the battery to drain. 
  • Remove the casing and open it to access the components. 
  • Remove the hard drive from its casing by locating and unscrewing it. 
  • Finally, destroy the hard drive by smashing it with a hammer or drilling holes into it. 

Warning: If you are uncomfortable with this approach, we recommend leaving this job to a professional because you may accidentally damage parts that can be reused. 

Option 2. Digital Approach 

A number of software programs can be downloaded to help you wipe your hard drive, destroying any information that may be stored there. With a bit of research, you will find some that are free, while others require a registration fee. 

It's also a good idea to reset the laptop to factory settings. If you own a Mac OS, this means erasing the hard drive and reinstalling macOS. 

If you are still worried and want to destroy sensitive data, we recommend using a professional data sanitiser. This will ensure that no one can retrieve your information. 

Phone/Tablet: How to erase your device hard drive 

For Android device 

Delete search history instruction:

  • On your Android device, open the Google app . 
  • Tap your profile picture or initial on the right side of your screen then navigate to "Search history". 
  • To delete your Search history, tap "All your Search history" (* located above your history), then tap Delete>Delete all time. 

Tip: If you delete your Search history, it will be permanently deleted from your Google Account. 

Deauthorisation instruction: 

  • Navigate to the "Your Devices" section of the web-based account manager. 
  • Find your phone in the list 
  • Press the "Sign Out" button 

Tip: If you have more than one Google Account, sign out of all of them. You may also need to deal with other accounts this way, such as password managers (such as Last Pass) and security apps (such as Authy). 

For iOS device  

Delete search history instruction:

  • To clear your history and cookies, go to Settings > Safari and tap Clear History and Website Data. Choose whether you want to keep AutoFill information. 
  • To clear only your cookies and keep your browsing history, go to Settings > Safari > Advanced > Website Data, then tap Remove All Website Data. 

Deauthorisation instructions: 

  • On your device, Tap Settings>your name>Media & Purchases. 
  • Press "View Account". You may be asked to provide your log in details to sign in. 
  • Scroll and tap"Remove this device"

Sustainable approaches to discard your e-Waste

Recycle your e-Waste 

According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, recycling one million laptops saves enough energy to power 3,500 homes for an entire year. On the other hand, Iin the United Kingdom, electrical and electronic equipment is regulated to reduce the amount of waste electrical and electronic equipment that ends up in landfills. 

Reduction is achieved through various programs and initiatives that encourage product and component recovery, reuse, and recycling. Accordingly, the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Regulations 2013 has become the primary legislation in the UK. 

PC/Laptop: How to recycle your computer? 

When you recycle your computer, it's important to be aware of scams and instead find a legitimate recycling facility. Computers and laptop batteries can usually be recycled at household waste recycling centres, while normal batteries can be recycled with other batteries at battery collection points. In addition, Dell's Reconnect program began offering recycling services in 1996, focusing on recovering e-waste by making its customers more aware of its recycling solutions. 

Phone/Tablet: How to recycle your device? 

According to local laws and regulations, it is important to dispose of your household batteries separately from regular waste. When this product reaches its end of usefulness, please dispose of it at a collection point designated by local authorities. Recycling this product will help conserve natural resources, ensuring that the material will not end up in landfill or an incinerator. 

For Android device 

For more information on Android devices recycling programs click the button below: 

For iOS device  

For more information on Apple's recycling program, click the button below: 

Donate or Sell Functional Devices 

If your electronic device is still in good working condition and cannot be repaired, consider donating or selling it. Many organisations, schools, and individuals may benefit from functional devices, even if they are not the latest models.  

Local charities, community centers, and schools often accept donations of electronics for educational or outreach purposes. Alternatively, you can sell your device through online platforms or local classifieds, allowing someone else to benefit from its functionality. 

Key takeaways 

Disposing of old electronic devices responsibly is essential to reduce the environmental impact of e-waste. By following the simple steps outlined above, you can contribute to a more sustainable future.  

Remember, before you dispose of your e-Waste, always evaluate the condition of your devices, clear your data, utilise manufacturer and retailer programs, explore local recycling centers, donate or sell functional devices, and ensure proper battery disposal.  

Together, we can make a difference in minimising electronic waste and embracing environmentally conscious practices. 


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