Electonic waste in libraries and archives

Situation: E-waste generation in preservation environments

The total amount of "e-waste" generation in libraries and archives increase as results of digital preservation activities and changes in technology.
1. In the digital information environment, preservationists become active consumers of various electronic devices to preserve and make available digital/digitized collections.
2. For long-term preservation, electronic equipment in libraries and archives has to be updated, replaced, and refreshed to newer media continuously.
3. Due to the trend toward ubiquitous computing, traditional 'non-electronic' equipment used in libraries and archives contains microprocessors, computer chips, and electronic parts in it.


As active consumers of electronic devices, preservationists in libraries and archives should consider how to treat "e-waste" in an appropriate, eco-friendly, and ethical way in libraries and archives.
1. Electronic equipment contains valuable materials that should be recycled, such as gold, iron, copper, silver, and aluminum.
2. Electronic equipment also contains hazardous substances including lead, mercury and heavy metals, cadmium and beryllium, and toxic chemicals that require professional treatment for disposal.
3. Excessive amounts of toxic e-waste are illegally exported to developing countries, such as Africa, China, and India.

Types of electronic equipment used in preservation environments
Computers, CDs & DVDs, External hard ware, Memory sticks, Memory cards, Cables, Printers, Copiers, Scanner, Digital camera, Audio/Video recordings and players, Automatic climate control devices, Lightning, Telephones and so forth

On-line recourses

- Green Peace, Hi-Tech: Highly toxic
- Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition: Sustainable Technology
- eCycling by U.S. Environmental protection Agency
- E-waste guide
- Rethink: Fresh Ideas for a Cleaner World
- GreenIT: Sustainable Information Technology
- Green Grid: Build green IT infrastructure

This is an online version of Electonic waste in libraries and archives.
This poster was presented
at the From Gray Areas to Green Areas: Developing Sustainable Practices in Preservation Environments,
November 1st, 2007,
by Sarah Kim, School of Information, The University of Texas at Austin.
E-mail: srhkim at gmail.com


What can preservationists do?

It is recommended to choose manufacturers who practice eliminating toxic chemicals from their products, take responsibility for their products when they are discarded by customers, recycle their own-brand discarded products, and use less and/or recyclable packages.
Preservationists can choose products equipped with upgradeable hardware, software, and operating systems, rechargeable battery, and energy saving functions.
Green Electronics Guide by Greenpeace: Official green peace report
Green peace ranks leading mobile and PC manufacturers on their degree of "green."
Ranking of Green electronics See the updated ranking.
(as the top is the most green)
Nokia (1st), followed by Sony Ericsson, Dell, Lenovo, LGE, Sony, Fujitsu Siemens, Samsung, Motorola, Toshiba, Acer, Apple , HP, and Panasonic
A Guide to Environmentally Preferable Computer Purchasing
by Northwest Product Stewardship Council (NWPSC)
Proper use can be helpful to reduce e-waste. For example, DVDs can save more files than CDs. If preservationists use DVDs rather than CDs as preservation media, they can save more flies while using less number of discs. Electronic devices are sensitive. Consistent and proper handling will ensure longer lifespan of electronic devices. Updating hardware and software rather replacing the whole device is one way to reduce e-waste.
Not only large devices such as computers, but also CDs and DVDs should be discarded and/or recycled properly. Many electronic device producers support "take-back" programs for their customers. Therefore preservationists can send back end of life equipment to the manufacturer. For example, Dell is taking back any computers, regardless of maker, when a customer buys a Dell computer.
If the manufacture will not take back their product and/or for recycling small items such as CDs and DVDs, preservationists can contact to reliable and/or certified recyclers near them. There are online lists of electronic recyclers who have special facilities and technologies to take discarded electronics and recycle e-waste in a safe and environmentally friendly way.
Recycler list:
- eRecycle

- Recycler Finder supported by Computer TakeBack Campaign
- Directory of the electronic recycling industry by the International Association of Electronics Recyclers, Inc
Examples: Recyclers specialized in e-waste
- Green Disk http://www.greendisk.com/
- Electronic Recyclers http://www.electronicrecyclers.com/
- Green Citizen http://www.greencitizen.com/
Preservationists can donate less then five years old used electronics for reuse. Donation will extend the lives of valuable products and reduce e-waste. However before donating devices, preservationists should clear all personal information using disk-cleaning software. Preservationists can contact to refurbishers who are well equipped to repair and upgrade devices rather then donate devices directly to a charity. Preservationists need to provide information about original operating system, software installed, and documentation needs when they donate devices.
Ten Tips for Donating a Computer How to donate your used equipment
Be aware
It is important for preservationists to be aware of the e-waste issue. Government sectors, environmental organizations, and electronic device manufacturers have discussed various "e-waste" problems. There are e-waste and recycling regulations, laws, and policies. Environmental organizations provide appropriate methods for e-waste disposal and regional events to facilitate recycling of old electronic devices. Electronic manufacturers support take-back or device leasing programs for their customers. Preservationists need to pay attention to what disposal methods are available for them and update information about this issue.