Why Do We Need Responsible Recycling?

Why should we all be recycling our outdated or decommissioned electronics? There are many reasons why it is not only bad for the environment, it can negatively affect humans also. When electronic waste (e-waste) does not get properly recycled, it can get into the air, the soil, the water, and at the end of the day into humans. There are many commodities that come out of recycling your electronics such as steel, plastics, aluminum, cadmium, lead, glass, and much more. But are these toxic for you?

For instance, if someone wanted to just throw away a standard computer into the trash, it then goes to the landfill. Eventually the computer will be improperly dismantled, destroyed, or even burned, letting toxins and chemicals into the environment. Pieces from the destroyed computer could have contaminants like mercury, lead, cadmium, lithium, and more. The pollutants will then seep into the ground and into surrounding areas nearby, slowly causing more destruction than many think about.

Our air is easily something that we take for granted daily. However, e-waste recycling can greatly affect if we have clean air to breathe. “Chronic diseases and cancers are at a higher risk to occur when burning e-waste because it also releases fine particles, which can travel thousands of miles, creating numerous negative health risks to humans and animals,” (Elytus). These fumes can pose future respiratory issues for both groups.

When individuals think about tossing out old cell phones or maybe their dad’s old stereo, many people do not think about the ground below them. “The amount of soil contaminated depends on a range of factors including temperature, soil type, pH levels, and soil composition. These pollutants can remain in the soil for a long period of time and can be harmful to microorganisms in the soil and plants,” (Elytus). Take a second to think about what that means for animals that live off plants, or your friend who is on special diets like vegetarian, paleo, or vegan.

There is also an issue with e-waste affecting our water source locally. People who are living next to a landfill, for example, should be concerned about how much toxins are getting into groundwater influencing rivers, lakes, and streams next doors. “E-waste can also impact humans that rely on this water. Toxins like lead, barium, mercury, and lithium are also considered carcinogenic,” (Green E-Waste Recycling). Carcinogens can damage DNA and can increase your risk of developing cancer.

Humans are in the line of fire when people chose not to responsibly recycle their electronics. “Electronic waste contains toxic components that are dangerous to human health, such as mercury, lead, cadmium, polybrominated flame retardants, barium and lithium. The negative health effects of these toxins on humans include brain, heart, liver, kidney and skeletal system damage,” (Elytus).

To sum up, the importance of responsible recycling is a grand scheme project that is not just about trashing an old cell phone. No matter what, most electronics contain harmful commodities (and reusable ones) that need handled properly. If you are unsure how to handle them, you can google nearby electronic disposal companies, however, it is up to you to verify if they certified. Because overall, responsible recycling is about our health, our animals, and our environment.

Sources:

https://elytus.com/blog/e-waste-and-its-negative-effects-on-the-environment.html#:~:text=As%20mentioned%2C%20electronic%20waste%20contains,kidney%20and%20skeletal%20system%20damage.

https://www.gerecycle.com/3-scary-effects-of-e-waste-on-the-environment-and-human-health/

EPC, Inc. Expands IT Disposal Program to Give COVID-19 Relief

EPC, Inc., one of the world’s largest global IT asset disposition (ITAD) providers, has recently expanded our IT disposal program aimed to help organizations experiencing a transitional workforce due to COVID-19. With many employees now working from home or remotely for months, the need for creative and safe IT disposal is a high priority for organizations around the country.

EPC’s Box Program is designed to help remote workers safely and securely dispose of decommissioned IT. The customer simply provides EPC with a list of equipment and locations. EPC then ships empty custom-made boxes with packing materials, a return label and instructions to each location. The remote employee follows packing instructions then either informs the carrier when the package will be ready or simply drops it off at FedEx, UPS, etc.

“Our team has been working hard to deliver creative IT disposal solutions that help alleviate our customers’ stress during the pandemic,” said Dan Fuller, President of EPC. “Our Box Program is agile, flexible and customizable. Several customers have told us it has really helped take the burden of IT disposal off their employees working from home.”

EPC’s box program is simple:

  1. Customer provides EPC with a list of equipment and locations.
  2. EPC sends out empty boxes with packing materials, return label, and instructions to each location.
  3. Client’s employee follows instructions to pack up equipment and sets up aa pickup/dropoff for the return.
  4. Items are shipped back to EPC facility and processed in accordance to clients specific requirements.

Once items are received at EPC, all hard drives are sanitized according to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) or destroyed depending upon the customer’s security protocol. Organizations can then choose to have their equipment redeployed if needed. All other equipment is either remarketed through various sales channels or properly recycled.

“We’ve developed specialty packaging processes that, combined with our custom boxes, promotes best in industry practices to protect the fair market value of the returning assets,” said Debbie Heacock, Logistics Manager. “Along with ease of use, our main goal is to ensure our customers’ security protocols are met in the same fashion as our traditional disposal programs.”

EPC’s Box Program is designed for desktops, monitors, laptops and printers, but can be easily adapted for other equipment as well. Organizations with remote offices located around the U.S. will also benefit throughout the pandemic and beyond.

Because EPC, Inc. is one of the world’s largest global ITAD providers, organizations around the world turn to EPC for customized, secure IT disposal solutions to help them achieve sustainability goals and contribute to the circular economy. Our certified data security, remarketing and recycling processes follow all local, national and international laws and adhere to the strictest policies. Our mission is to provide organizations around the world with a premium, flexible and secure strategy for sustainable IT disposal that delivers real return on their technology investment. Learn more at www.epcusa.com/boxprogram/.

Is There a Solution to Plastics in the Medical Field?

Innovation in the medical field has done a lot of good for the world, but with that good comes new challenges previously unheard of. The digitization of medical records has created a need for proper data destruction through a variety of methods, creating a relationship between the medical and ITAD industries. In a similar vein, technological advances have required the increased use of plastics—some reusable, some single-use. Reusable hospital equipment such as monitors are partially or entirely made up of plastic. Single-use plastics found in hospitals include items such as syringes, disposable covers for items like thermometers or otoscopes, and personal protective equipment (PPE) such as face masks.

Plastics in the medical industry have helped cut costs and improve sanitary conditions in many areas. However, with current environmental activism focusing its efforts on reducing plastic waste, there are important questions to address. How do we reduce plastic waste while maintaining the sanitary conditions single-use plastics can provide? Will replacing single-use plastics in the medical field with reusable alternatives harm the environment more?

There aren’t many clear answers; the current COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the complexity of the issue. For example, face masks, which help reduce transmission risk, can be made out of reusable cotton and washed, but the material used for disposable masks is more effective at risk reduction. At the same time, washing and properly sanitizing an item uses a lot of energy and releases greenhouse gases into the atmosphere while often requiring a significant quantity of water. Also, certain devices such as duodenoscopes are notoriously difficult to clean for reuse.

So what is the solution? Although such efforts have taken a backseat to the more pressing health crisis, there is an increased effort to create biodegradable PPE with the same efficacy as our current single-use equipment. Other reusable medical equipment such as monitors are recyclable through ITAD services. And though healthcare workers still require the use of disposable PPE, reusable items such as cloth masks work just fine for the general public.

The healthcare industry—and its current need for single-use plastics—highlights the complexity of the relationship between plastics consumption, the environment, and the health and safety of individuals. It indicates that there is a much bigger conversation to be had about how to effectively manage and balance environmental consequences of the industry. It’s an unsatisfying conclusion, but after the crisis is over, we may be able to find a sufficient solution.

References:

https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/ppe-waste-business-challenge-1.5765902

https://www.medicaldevice-network.com/features/debate-will-covid-19-bring-a-return-to-single-use-medical-devices/

https://www.healthcareglobal.com/procurement-and-supply-chain/role-plastics-healthcare

Combating the Recycling Crisis: The Lies, the Truth, and EPC’s Promise to You

In December of 2018, we published “Combating the Recycling Crisis,” a blog post written to inform readers of the unfortunate realities of plastics recycling and to offer advice on how best to prevent your waste from ending up in landfills. Our post was based on extensive research and the information available at the time.

However, on Friday, September 11th, 2020, NPR published an article revealing harsh truths about the plastic recycling industry—an industry that has lied to the public for decades. The truth is, most of our plastic, whether we follow the appropriate guidelines or not, will end up buried in a landfill or dumped into our oceans.

While most of us have been somewhat aware of plastic pollution and its devastating effects on our ecosystem, plastic companies such as Exxon, Chevron, and Dow concealed the full extent of the damage through “eco-friendly” messaging, which lauded plastic as easily recyclable. Their goal? To sell more new plastic while avoiding condemnation from environmental activists.

The depressing truth is that out of all the plastic manufactured over the last few decades, less than ten percent has been recycled; and the plastic that does achieve new life can only be reused a couple times before its structure breaks down. This means even the most environmentally responsible consumer’s efforts have been mostly fruitless—at least when it comes to plastic.

For our customers, this news may raise a few concerns. When I drop off my electronics, does EPC really recycle them?

Here’s the honest truth: EPC is committed to recycling 100% of its plastic e-waste, regardless of cost. We believe in protecting the environment and giving your electronics new life, not tossing them away to pollute our planet. As a customer of EPC, you can rest easy, at least when it comes to your phones, laptops, and other devices.

Maybe skip the bottle of soda, though.

Mobile Repair: Not Just Phones and Tablets

You are likely familiar with our Mobile Repair department. Our mobile technicians work hard every day to give our customers’ phones and tablets a longer life. This is good for multiple reasons: it saves the customer money, and it keeps old devices out of landfills.

But phones and tablets aren’t the only thing we repair in the Mobile department. We also repair another device many customers have but don’t even attempt to have repaired: gaming consoles.

By nature, gaming consoles are hard not to replace. When a new iPhone model comes out, you don’t necessarily have to replace your phone to keep using it. However, once a new gaming console comes out, many times you must buy it to keep up with new games.

Replacing a console doesn’t necessarily contribute to the growing e-waste problem. Online marketplaces on Facebook and Craigslist are full of used but working consoles at a reduced price, giving others who can’t afford the newest model a chance to enjoy some games. But what happens when your console is broken?

You may be tempted to throw it away, especially if a new generation is coming soon. But getting it repaired would allow you to continue using it or pass it on. EPC’s technicians offer video game console repair services. We work hard to diagnose the issue and fix it to get the controller back in your hands.

If your console is truly gone, you still shouldn’t throw it away! Bring it in, and we’ll recycle it at no cost to you.

Call today at (636)443-1999 or come to our St. Charles showroom to take advantage of this service!

A Different Kind of Virus

Twenty years ago, a dangerous virus emerged from Asia and made its way across the globe. The world had never seen anything like it before. People panicked, businesses closed, and governments tried and failed to stop the spread. Over one million were infected in a matter of hours. How, you may ask, did this virus spread so rapidly?

The ILOVEYOU virus, also referred to as the “Love Bug,” was a computer virus unlike any other at the time. An innocuous subject line, “ILOVEYOU,” seemingly sent by a contact. A short message: “kindly check the attached LOVELETTER coming from me.” A file titled “LOVE-LETTER-FOR-YOU.TXT.” Many opened this file, expecting a heartfelt message from a relative, or possibly an awkward romantic gesture from a coworker.

What they didn’t realize was that the file wasn’t a text file at all—it was a Visual Basic script file, its .vbs extension hidden from view. The document, once opened, unleashed a worm that wreaked havoc on the system, seeking out and replacing media files with copies of itself. The worm then accessed the user’s Outlook address book and sent an identical email to every contact, many of whom would go on to open the file themselves, repeating the vicious cycle.

Although the United States had prior warning, it failed to protect its government and businesses from infection. The virus hit the Pentagon, nearly every major military base, AT&T, Ford, and other corporations throughout the country, overloading mail servers and shutting down vital operations.

Worldwide, the virus infected over 45 million computers and caused around $10 billion worth of damage. After an investigation, the man believed to be responsible was Onel de Guzman, a college student from the Philippines who had submitted a similar code for his final thesis. Although there was plenty of evidence against de Guzman, he ultimately faced no charges, as the Philippines had no laws at the time concerning cybercrimes.

The ILOVEYOU virus may not have gotten very far had it been sent out today; automatic spam filters and antivirus software often catch such emails before they ever reach a person’s inbox, especially in corporate settings. But that is no reason to become complacent. In fact, users need to be vigilant, because as protections become stronger, hackers become craftier.

Computer “viruses” earned their name for a reason—much like human viruses, one person’s actions have the potential to infect thousands. To further the analogy, antivirus software is like a mask, shielding yourself and others from transmitting the virus; running frequent scans and keeping your software up-to-date is like washing your hands, ensuring threats are eliminated before infection occurs; and practicing common sense cybersecurity habits is like social distancing, avoiding situations where you put yourself and others at risk. This includes not opening attachments—even from people you know—that you are not expecting, not clicking on strange links, and never giving your password to anyone. Just as it is important to protect your physical health, you must also keep yourself safe from threats to your virtual security.

References:
https://www.cnn.com/2020/05/01/tech/iloveyou-virus-computer-security-intl-hnk/index.html
https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/d73jnk/love-bug-the-virus-that-hit-50-million-people-turns-15

Edit 7/14/2020: This blog post made the mistaken claim that de Guzman was arrested after the virus was released, when in reality, he was never arrested for the crime. This detail has been amended.

Fireworks and Computers: How Modern Programming Revolutionized Pyrotechnics

Throughout their long history, fireworks have served a variety of purposes. The first “fireworks” could be found in China around the year 200 B.C., where bamboo reeds would be tossed into a fire; the air pockets inside the reed would expand and eventually explode. These controlled blasts were likely used to ward off evil spirits. Between 600 and 900 A.D., an alchemist combined saltpeter with sulfur and charcoal, creating the first recipe for gunpowder. The bamboo reeds would be stuffed with this mixture and set alight, creating larger—and more dangerous—explosions. Soon, China used their invention to create weaponry. In the 13th century, it is believed Marco Polo brought fireworks to Europe. The spectacle became quite popular during the renaissance, and fireworks have remained popular ever since. They have been used to celebrate USA’s Independence Day from the very first anniversary on July 4th, 1777, and since Italian pyrotechnicians figured out how to add colors in the 1830s, fireworks displays have stayed much the same to this day.

The technology for running these displays, however, has changed dramatically. It was not until the 1980s that pyrotechnicians created computer programs to choreograph, simulate, and run shows automatically. Before this, calculations had to be done painstakingly by hand, and timing shows to music involved a lot of guess work. Now, computers could do these calculations in minutes rather than hours, and pyrotechnics designers could spend less time worrying about logistics and more time on the creative process. Computers such as the Atari 800XL and the IBM Personal Computer ran some of the first automated fireworks shows, sending signals through a firing box to light the electric matches (known as squibs) with precise timing.

Today, pyrotechnics design has gone even further, with 3D programs that render extremely accurate simulations of a show and communicate with firing devices. Some of these programs are even capable of pulling real 3D models from Google Maps to simulate displays in specific locations. Designers can watch their shows before a single firework is lit. Although fireworks in their construction have remained largely the same over the centuries, the days of guesswork are over, thanks to computers.

If you are planning to set off your own fireworks this year, stay safe and practice common sense. Happy Fourth!

References:

Technology; Fireworks by Computer

Atari Sets Off Fireworks!

https://tedium.co/2019/07/04/fireworks-technology-simulation-history/

EPC Continues to Provide Affordable, Certified Workstations Around the Globe. Check them out now at EPCUSA.Com

E-Waste Disposal is About More Than Just Cleaning

If there’s a pile of e-waste building up in the back of your building, it’s certainly time to call an ITAD company. Haphazard e-waste storage is ugly at best, and dangerous at worst. Old, broken electronics can leech hazardous materials into your work environment; but there are other potential dangers with not disposing your electronics that are less obvious.

About 87% of companies who recycle their e-waste do so to clear up clutter. While this is a good reason, it is not the only reason you should be creating an ITAD plan. Every asset not properly disposed of poses a security risk to your company. If sensitive company info gets into the wrong hands, it can lead to major security breaches and lawsuits.

When choosing an ITAD provider, it is important to make sure they securely dispose of your data prior to resale or recycling. The best way to ensure your data is safe is to make sure your ITAD company adheres to the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) guidelines for proper data disposal. Certifications to look for include NAID, e-Stewards, and Blancco Gold.

Clutter is a pain, but it’s not just mess you need to worry about. Make sure your company data is secure and safe in the hands of your ITAD provider.

EPC offers e-Stewards, NAID, and Blancco Gold-certified data disposal. Call today at (636)443-1999 or visit https://www.epcusa.com/about-us/contact-us/ to get more info.

What We Can Learn About the Environment From COVID-19

Mere months ago, the biggest threat to the health and wellbeing of our planet present in the public sphere was climate change. Now, as COVID-19 presents the more immediate danger, climate change has been overall set aside in the media. However, as we continue to observe social distancing guidelines, travel has reduced significantly, and more people than ever are working from home, scientists have noticed a positive change in the environment. While some of these alternative social practices are unsustainable in the long run, they still can be a learning opportunity and teach us how we can progress toward a healthier planet in the years to come.

Change is possible. With a global decrease in energy consumption, there is a noticeable difference in our carbon emissions and pollution levels. In China, scientists observed a 25% decrease in CO2 levels over a four-week period. That is a significant for the largest country in the world. Italy showed a similar decrease in pollution during lockdown. This data shows that widespread action is not only possible but can be effective in reducing the negative impact of energy consumption on our environment, and with scientists claiming we have only a decade to save the planet, that news is encouraging.

What’s less encouraging is the threat of emissions rapidly rising after the COVID-19 crisis subsides to meet industrial demands, similar to the aftermath of the 2008 economic recession. Although the drop in pollution is nice, it’s a drop in the bucket compared to what is needed to create a lasting positive impact. Still, it’s reassuring to know that our actions matter, and that people and businesses can rise to combat a threat to humanity—it’s a lesson we shouldn’t forget.

A Brief History of Video Games

There is, perhaps, no time like the present to understand the importance video games have in our modern society. With most people stuck inside, our collective playtime has increased drastically over the past few months. Consoles are sold out everywhere, and it seems like you can’t log on to any social media platform without someone discussing the price of turnips—whatever that means.

Just kidding, we know all about the stalk market.

Video games serve as a portal to a world outside our own. But where did they come from? And how do they relate to the development of computer programming?

Many mistakenly cite Atari’s Pong as the first video game, but this simply isn’t true. While Pong was the first successful arcade game, the first interactive electronic game was patented in 1947 by Thomas T. Goldsmith Jr. and was known as the cathode-ray tube amusement device. According to the patent, the “player” would physically attach images of targets such as airplanes to the face of the tube onto preprogrammed coordinates. Using a set of knobs, the player would have a limited amount of time to manipulate a beam of light to fire at the targets. If the beam successfully “hits” the target, a crudely simulated explosion would occur. While Goldsmith’s device was never commercially produced, and it’s likely no prototype was ever built, the patent is the earliest known concept of an electronic device designed for interactive entertainment.

Goldsmith’s original design, US Patent 2455992

The first playable games were created primarily to demonstrate a computer’s programming capabilities. Early games such as OXO (an electronic version of tic-tac-toe) and Tennis for Two, both developed in the 1950s, helped garner public interest in the advancement of computer technology, though neither were ever released publicly. The first game designed specifically for the computer was a PvP—player-versus-player—game known as Spacewar!. Computer programming students at MIT, eager to test their department’s brand-new $120,000 PDP-1 computer, designed a game inspired by science fiction novels where opposing players would attempt to blow up each other’s spacecrafts while fighting against unpredictable elements such as gravitational effects and a randomized “hyperspace” function. The spectacle was a huge success, but like OXO and Tennis for Two, it was never released to the public. It was, however, introduced to college campuses across the country, including the University of Utah, where it inspired student Nolan Bushnell to create a single-player, coin-operated version called Computer Space. While this game flopped, Bushnell’s career did the opposite—he went on to found Atari, which released Pong to the public in 1972.

Home video game systems followed soon after with Magnavox’s unsuccessful Odyssey console, which had extremely limited graphics capabilities and required players to tape images to their television screens (not unlike Thomas Goldsmith’s original 1947 concept!). Atari soon released an at-home version of Pong which proved extremely profitable, though Magnavox eventually filed a lawsuit for patent infringement which settled out of court. Soon, both the Fairchild Channel F (1976) and the Atari VCS (1977) offered removable game systems, allowing for multiple games to be played on the same device. Just as success began to wane, however, and the industry wondered if home gaming was destined for obsolescence, Nintendo released the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) in 1985, which single-handedly revitalized the home console industry, and video games have thrived ever since. The evidence is likely on your shelf—or in your hand.

File:Wikipedia NES PAL.jpg
We have the NES to thank for the success of today’s consoles.

Video games began as merely a tool to demonstrate the capabilities of computer programming and hardware. However, they have evolved into an industry of their own, not only exhibiting but inspiring new technological advancements in the field. As you spend this time on your couch picking fruit or fighting zombies, be thankful for those early programmers who paved the way; what they did with their free time is now filling yours.

EPC’s mobile repair department offers repair services on gaming consoles. Contact us for more info.