New study highlights the rise in e-waste during global pandemic

New study highlights the rise in e-waste during global pandemic

The findings reveal that the pandemic forced almost half of enterprises worldwide to shift attention to end-of-life electronics challenges.


Blancco, Joensuu, Finland, which helps organizations safely erase data and keep current data secure, has released its new report, "The Rising Tide of E-Waste," which shows the impacts the COVID-19 pandemic has had on electronic scrap.

The study also shows that 97 percent of companies surveyed had to buy laptops, and 77 percent of American respondents say they also had to buy a new device to handle working from home more.

Blancco partnered with Coleman Parkes on the study to explore enterprise perspectives on end-of-life electronics. The study highlights the e-scrap and sustainability challenges and opportunities the COVID-19 pandemic has created.

More than 53 metric tons of e-scrap were produced in 2019, Blancco states in its study. Purchasing new technology to facilitate employees’ transition to remote work during the pandemic has sparked data security and e-scrap fears as businesses increase the volumes of devices they own and ultimately the amount of data that resides on them.

Blancco’s study showed that nearly 75 percent of respondents bought devices brand new to deal with the move from traditional offices to home office environments.

However, the study also found that 78 percent of respondents agreed with the statement, “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.”

This demonstrates an awareness of security risks among decision-makers. Enterprises inevitably will face challenges following the switch to remote working, but the importance of using appropriate methods of data sanitization when new devices are eventually decommissioned remains imperative, according to the study.

Aiming to understand these new challenges, the survey explored current approaches to e-scrap management and found that while 44 percent of enterprises did have an e-scrap policy in place for end-of-life device management, it was not yet being communicated or implemented.

However, the survey identifies that e-scrap initiatives tend to struggle within the modern enterprise because of a lack of ownership around the communication of the policies and in their implementations and compliance.

“The flood of technology investment which followed the beginning of the pandemic has created clear issues for both e-waste and secure data management,” says Alan Bentley, president of global strategy at Blancco. “The switch to remote work spurred on a wave of new device purchases, but these new, widely distributed devices have left enterprises feeling vulnerable. It’s fascinating that so many businesses have implemented roles to manage the e-waste issue resulting from COVID-19, demonstrating corporate social responsibility (CSR), but also their concern around how these devices will be dealt with when they reach end-of-life.

He adds, “It’s crucial that this issue is not overlooked and that these devices are appropriately disposed of. But it’s just as crucial to ensure the safeguarding of sensitive data during that process. Appropriate data sanitization might at times be overlooked as an element of e-waste policies, but it is the perfect opportunity to engage data management best practices. Because not only will this reduce environmental impact, it will also remove the risk of a data breach when disposing of devices at end-of-life.”

Key global findings from the report:

  • Ninety-two percent of enterprises agree with the statement, “We must take a serious view on ensuring all devices used to equip the workforce throughout the COVID-19 pandemic are appropriately stored and disposed of.”
  • Forty-seven percent of enterprises are “uncertain” about how best to communicate e-scrap policies. This challenge is exacerbated by the fact that the task of being responsible for e-waste and CSR policy communications lacks ownership. Indeed, 39 percent of respondents said the reason their e-scrap policies hadn’t been communicated was because no one had taken control of them.
  • Thirty-five percent of enterprises said their organizations carried out physical destruction on end-of-life equipment because it’s viewed as better for the environment.
  • When asked what will happen to their newly purchased devices when no longer required for remote work, 28 percent of enterprises said laptops would be erased to be resold. A further 27 percent said they would be erased to be reused internally. An additional 12 percent said they would be erased and recycled, and 9 percent will send them to an information technology asset disposition (ITAD) firm.