Both citizens and businesses may be nervous about handing in used electronic equipment for reuse because mobile phones, computers etc. may contain sensitive personal information. But in Denmark, the reuse system is safe to use. Having said that, it is important to dispose of old electronic equipment properly.

Data theft is a matter of concern for the public. So much so that both consumers and businesses worry about handing in end-of-life electronic items, like old mobile phones and laptops, for reuse. Even if great efforts have been made to erase all data, a lot of people are worried that criminals could recreate and misuse data from discarded products. A lot of old mobile phones are therefore kept, or discarded as household waste for incineration, instead of being recycled and reused. 

However, the Danish recycling system is very safe to use. Old smartphones, laptops and other products storing personal data are handled by certified and security-approved operators who ensure that data security is not compromised and GPDR rules respected.  

New standards for data security

As Denmark’s largest collective scheme for the collection of electrical waste, Elretur has also initiated two new “first treatment” facilities in Eastern and Western Denmark, where trained, certified staff will remove products from the waste stream that are suitable for repair and reuse. In parallel with the development of these facilities, we are also unifying, optimising and qualifying the handling of old electrical items, setting new standards for data security and process quality in this country. Consumers and businesses can safely hand in their used electrical equipment for reuse. 

However, it is important that electrical waste goes to the right place at the recycling centre. If discarded electrical products go into “small burnable” or are discarded with household waste, the result is that important, scarce raw materials go up in smoke. And we lose the opportunity to potentially reuse the products and spare the environment the large amounts of CO2 emitted in the production of new electrical products.

“Grey collectors” are a challenge for data security and sustainability

As a consumer, it is also important to make sure that end-of-life electrical products are NOT left out with bulky waste. Private individuals in vans often collect portions of people’s used products before the rubbish trucks arrive. These are the so-called “grey collectors”, who collect people’s waste to sell it on. No one has control over the products if “grey collectors” take them before the authorised rubbish collectors. This can compromise data security and also pose an environmental challenge because no one knows whether the products will be reused or end up in nature. 

The Danish Environmental Protection Agency has mapped the collection of electronic waste, estimating total sales of electronic products at 202,500 tonnes in 2020. Of this amount, the Agency estimates that approx. 25%, or 51,500 tonnes, is never collected but “goes missing”. That amounts to 51,500 tonnes of old electronic equipment and batteries in Denmark alone.  

The “missing” products are probably kept in the homes of consumers and businesses, who are nervous about losing data if they return the products or imagine that the products may have a future use or resale value. 

But some of the missing products are collected by unauthorised “grey collectors” and sold abroad or disposed of outside the waste system. This poses a risk. Both for data security and for sustainability and the environment in general. 

You can read more about data security on the Elretur website here.

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Om Elretur

About Elretur

Elretur is Denmark’s largest producer responsibility organisation, representing many different industries and types of companies.