Data security and eWaste: A growing problem that’s only getting worse

by Green Device Recycling CEO Quam Arewa

As technology continues to advance at an astonishing pace, our society faces a parallel challenge: the mounting issue of electronic waste, or eWaste. While the environmental impact of improperly disposed electronic devices is well-documented, there is another critical concern that often goes unnoticed – data security.

In an increasingly connected world, the improper disposal of electronic devices can expose individuals and organizations to significant risks. We need to shed light on the intertwined problems of eWaste and data security, emphasizing the need for responsible electronic waste management practices.

The expanding eWaste crisis

The rise of consumer electronics, coupled with shorter product lifecycles, has led to an alarming increase in eWaste generation. According to a United Nations report, approximately 53.6 million metric tons of eWaste were generated worldwide in 2020 alone. Sadly, only a fraction of this waste is properly recycled or disposed of, exacerbating the environmental and data security challenges we face.

The data security conundrum

When electronic devices are discarded without proper data sanitization, they become potential gold mines for cybercriminals. Personal information, corporate data, and confidential files can be extracted from these devices, leading to identity theft, financial fraud, or even corporate espionage. The consequences can be devastating for individuals and businesses alike, resulting in reputational damage, financial losses, and legal ramifications.

The role of data privacy regulations

In response to the growing concern surrounding data security, governments and regulatory bodies worldwide have implemented data privacy regulations such as the Protection of Personal Information Act of 2013 (POPIA) and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). These regulations place the onus on organizations to protect the personal data they collect and process. However, compliance with these regulations extends beyond data in active use; it also encompasses data stored on discarded electronic devices.

The need for responsible eWaste management

To address the intertwined challenges of eWaste and data security, it is imperative for individuals, organizations, and governments to prioritize responsible eWaste management. This involves adopting sustainable practices that promote recycling, refurbishment, and secure data disposal.

  1. Raise Awareness: Educating the public and businesses about the risks associated with improper eWaste disposal is the first step toward fostering change. Awareness campaigns should highlight the importance of secure data erasure and encourage individuals and organizations to recycle their electronic devices through certified eWaste recycling facilities.
  2. Secure Data Erasure: Data sanitization is crucial to prevent sensitive information from falling into the wrong hands. Employing certified data destruction methods, such as physical destruction or data wiping techniques that meet industry standards, ensures that information stored on discarded devices is irretrievable.
  3. Collaboration and Accountability: Effective eWaste management requires collaboration among various stakeholders, including consumers, manufacturers, and government bodies. By establishing and enforcing regulations, governments can encourage responsible eWaste disposal practices. Manufacturers, in turn, should be incentivized to design products with easier recyclability and secure data disposal in mind.
  4. Extended Producer Responsibility: Implementing extended producer responsibility (EPR) programs can hold manufacturers accountable for the entire lifecycle of their products, including their proper disposal. EPR encourages manufacturers to design products with recyclability and data security in mind, making it financially viable for them to take responsibility for end-of-life management.


The intertwining issues of eWaste and data security pose significant challenges to individuals, businesses, and the environment. Addressing this growing problem requires a collective effort to promote responsible eWaste management practices, including secure data erasure and proper recycling.

Governments, businesses, and consumers must work together to raise awareness, implement effective regulations, and hold manufacturers accountable. By doing so, we can mitigate the risks associated with eWaste and ensure a safer, more sustainable digital future for all.

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