Check Before You Chuck It: 6 Mistakes to Avoid with IT Recycling

Topics: Data Backup and Archiving | Data Management

Once legacy data has outlived its usefulness, what should you do with it: Repurpose it? Resell it? Recycle it? Destroy it? With a comprehensive IT recycling programme, you can do all of the above.

What we're talking about is e-waste and a lot of it. This includes old desktop computers, laptops, printers, fax machines, scanners and even mobile phones. According to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) International Environmental Technology Centre (IETC), about 50 million tonnes of e-waste is produced globally each year.

Given such sobering figures, it makes sense to rethink your organisation's IT asset disposition (ITAD) practices. Here are some mistakes to avoid—whether you're disposing of 1 or 1,000 items:

  1. Not knowing where the asset ends up. Many third-party services offer to take and dispose of (or recycle) your IT assets. But, horror stories still exist with assets ending up in less-regulated, third-world countries or recycling work being performed by prison or child labour. How do you avoid such scenarios? Here's one way: See if your third-party service meets WEEEE certification and other related directives.
  2. DIY. Most organisations don't have sufficient resources or expertise to properly perform all aspects of IT asset disposition themselves. This is especially true for the complex recycling of electronic parts, such as circuit boards. Such methods include the safe isolation and disposition of a circuit board's toxic components as well as methods to extract and reuse the circuit board's high concentrations of heavy metals, such as copper, silver, gold and palladium.
  3. Not tracking or reporting assets. When you outsource IT recyling, it's important to track each asset and receive reports on its ultimate disposition or recycling. To minimise your company's risk and exposures, track how many items left your facility vs. how many were subsequently destroyed, repurposed or recycled. Not tracking assets at disposition can also be a sign of a bigger issue: Asset tracking shouldn't really begin at disposition. It should be part of your organisation's overall IT asset management procedures. From the time an asset is acquired to its on-going use and ultimate disposition, asset lifecycle information can provide further cost savings. Does your company know how many laptops or computers it has? According to this account, one company thought it owned 700 computers. A physical count, however, revealed 1,200 PCs in its possession.
  4. Being too quick to dispose of your assets. Many IT assets, even those no longer in working order, may still have good market value that can be recovered through refurbishment and resale. Remaining parts can be recycled according to approved recycling methods. claims "a large number of what is labelled as 'e-waste' is actually not waste at all, but rather whole electronic equipment or parts that are readily marketable for reuse or can be recycled for materials recovery."
  5. Not squeezing the most out of equipment while you have it. We're not just talking about how much productive use you get out of a computer. Comprehensive IT asset disposal programmes can further save companies money and gain tax benefits by depreciating and amortising their older assets over time. They can also ensure IT assets are retired properly to minimise end-of-life penalties. Third-party experts can help devise plans for the greatest cost savings.
  6. Not knowing if you're compliant. There's a plethora of regulations governing proper hardware disposal and data destruction. Such regulations surround everything from e-waste to data erasure and the protection of sensitive customer data. If you're in a highly regulated industry, you can still face other requirements about the disposition of your data. Prevent potential fines or sanctions. Know what's expected before you dispose of your assets.

While you can certainly go it alone when it comes to IT asset disposition, organisations most involved in reducing risk often rely on trusted third-party experts to ease the process. How does your current supplier stack up?