Across our network of domestic and international destinations, more than 56,000 Southwest Employees rely on technology to provide our Legendary Customer Service. From check-in kiosks and handheld devices to desktop computers and laptops, technology keeps us moving forward. This technology periodically needs to be refreshed as it wears out or becomes outdated. Routine replacement of old technology generated more than 300,000 pounds of used equipment in 2017. Cumulatively, over the past ten years, we have recycled or repurposed old technology equipment equivalent to the weight of more than three of our new Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft.
Electronic waste (or “e-waste”) can pose environmental risks if not disposed of properly. If e-waste is disposed in a landfill, heavy metals such as lead and mercury can impact the environment if they leach from the landfill and enter groundwater or stormwater. Furthermore, when precious metals are not recycled, manufacturers may need to rely on additional mining of precious metals.
Disposing of Our e-Waste
To minimize our environmental impact, Southwest partners with certified electronics recyclers who help us recycle e-waste properly. These partners are required to implement quality assurance programs in their recycling process to verify that data is secure or erased and that materials are not lost or misused. Throughout the recycling process, e-waste is tracked precisely—down to the serial number. We audit all of our recycling partners in order to select companies that meet these stringent requirements.
Repurpose and Recycle
The majority of Southwest’s e-waste stream is repurposed. Equipment that no longer meets the performance standards required by our Employees may still be serviceable for a broader audience. This equipment is refurbished and then resold, extending its life-cycle. Last year, more than 200,000 pounds of Southwest’s e-waste was repurposed in this way.
When a piece of hardware is not deemed reusable, many of its parts still are valuable commodities. Such pieces can be purchased by manufacturers on the open market. Unusable materials recovered from dismantled technology are shredded, separated, and recycled, further reducing the need to mine precious metals like gold, silver, copper, platinum, and palladium.
Southwest also limits the environmental impact of our e-waste by streamlining transportation of these materials. Since Southwest flights already arrive and depart from Dallas Love Field Airport, which is next door to our Headquarters, we piggyback Southwest’s e-waste collection onto regularly scheduled flights. Moving our e-waste to one central pickup location using flights that are already scheduled reduces shipping footprints, as well as our environmental impact.
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