These days, organizations have several options for managing electronic waste
FROM THE PURCHASINGB2B MARCH/APRIL 2012 PRINT EDITION:
While organizations’ use of electronic office equipment increases as technology advances, so too does the need to deal properly with that equipment at the end of its useful life. Costs, environmental harm and potential breaches of sensitive information must be considered when buying IT equipment.
However, in a 2010 survey by Samsung Canada Inc and Purchasingb2b, only six percent of respondents ranked end-of-life disposal and recycling options in the top three factors when they sourced IT hardware like computers, printers and cell phones. As well, 94 percent said manufacturers were responsible for providing users with IT end-of-life solutions. But what are the risks of not disposing of e-waste properly, and how can organizations deal with those issues?
Get a plan
To deal responsibly—and economically—with e-waste, organizations must know where they’re headed, says Sandra Pakosh, director of communications with Ontario Electronic Stewardship (OES), a not-for-profit organization overseeing the reuse and recycling of e-waste. Without that plan, organizations can wind up storing the waste onsite. “It’s then taking up valuable storage space or commercial real estate that could be used for generating business,” she says. Companies may then be tempted to dispose of e-waste quickly, without planning for how to handle proprietary data that equipment may still contain.
Like any consumer, businesses can sell, give away or donate unneeded electronic equipment, Pakosh says. Recycling is a good option if it no longer works and OES offers free pickup to organizations that have collected enough items. Pakosh says OES has a network of collectors and processors it can arrange for companies to deal with, depending on location. “Those approved processors and collectors are obligated through arrangements with our program to safely remove sensitive and confidential information (before recycling the equipment),” she says.
Without a trace
Effectively dealing with equipment at the end of its useful life is hitting the radars of more and more organizations, says Wallace MacKay, VP of international development with Barrie, Ontario-based Global Electric Electronic Processing (GEEP). E-waste, he notes, is among the world’s fastest growing solid waste streams, with 2.2 million tons produced in the US consumer marketplace in 2005 alone.
GEEP offers a full menu of services—including pickup—for organizations looking to dispose of e-waste, says MacKay. GEEP, which has 15 locations worldwide, will also wipe clean the hard drive of any equipment containing potentially sensitive information, a process that occurs before equipment leaves a client’s premises, he says. “We take the information off with data wiping software, bring the material into our plant, clean it off, capture the serial number, record the information and log it into our inventory system so there’s a chain of custody with no issue of information getting outside,” he says.
For many organizations, that data security remains the driving force behind proper e-waste disposal. And that’s not just for equipment like computers or Blackberries—there can also be sensitive information on items like photocopiers and scanners.
Looking for a recycler to handle e-waste? Organizations should ask what an organization’s certifications are, MacKay says, along with asking for references. The recycler should have government licensing and insurance to safeguard against liability.