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The Recycling Road Less Traveled: The Path of IT Asset Disposition

10 Nov 2015 by Sally Clasen

On Nov. 15, citizens across the United States will celebrate America Recycles Day, a national initiative promoted by Keep America Beautiful to raise awareness about the importance of recycling and encourage citizens to recycle everyday items as part of a green mindset. Yet reducing the carbon footprint left by paper, plastic bottles, aluminum cans and cardboard is only part of the cleanup story.

We live in a world filled with “throwaway” goods that pile up but don’t necessarily fit neatly or safely into a recycling bin, like data and electronics that create a trail of waste just as harmful to the environment as any non-biodegradable product. Many electronic devices, including computers, printers and cell phones, contain toxic heavy metals such as lead, mercury and cadmium. It’s estimated that nearly 40 million tons of e-waste is generated every year, and only 12.5% of that is recycled, with the majority ending up in hazardous landfills in developing countries. 

Of course, many businesses want to do the right eco-conscious tech thing, but it’s not practical — or advisable — to put the items on the curb for pickup. Organizations with used or outdated tech equipment filled with sensitive information need an effective and safe solution to reduce the clutter and make sure their assets end up in the right place.

Being green and safe

As part of its asset disposition program, Insight helps companies repurpose old and used tech equipment safely through data erasure, if applicable. It also helps them protect the environment by following disposal guidelines mandated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) — all while determining the best opportunities to maximize the marketability of their assets.

“We take all IT assets,” explains Lisa Czarnecki, a service business delivery specialist at Insight. “That includes traditional desktops, PCs, laptops, servers, routers, switches, mobile phones, tablets, printers and fax machines,” she says of the nationwide services offered that include dock-to-dock or inside pickups.

In three processing locations across the country, Insight partners with disposal vender Belmont Technology Remarketing, which puts client assets through a rigorous review to determine whether to remarket, recycle or redeploy the hardware, according to Czarnecki. “When Belmont receives an item, it does a complete physical and tech audit on each asset, checking to see if it powers up, has scratches or dents, or is burned or eroded, for example.”

Next, all serial numbers are tracked on all data-bearing devices and client IDs/assets tags are recorded and removed. Then each hard drive undergoes a Department of Defense 5220.22M drive wipe, a triple iteration, and multiple-overwrite process with random characters that renders the data completely erased and unrecoverable. Clients are provided a certificate of erasure and, if a drive cannot be erased, it is destroyed. “Just like a bank, if a client is audited it will have proof an erasure was completed,” says Czarnecki.

This high-level wipeout has far-reaching privacy and security implications since some of Insight’s clients’ assets contain secure information from their primary business activities but also those of their clients, some of whom are in privacy-risky industries like healthcare and banking.

Responsibly recycling tech

Equipment that doesn’t contain a hard drive but still has any information stored on it will be cleared and reprogrammed to a factory setting, regardless of how it is disposed. “Though some copiers and other business equipment doesn’t have a hard drive, they may still store e-mail addresses and other confidential information that needs to be removed prior to remarketing or deploying,” says Czarnecki.

If assets can be remarketed, they are either repaired or sold “as is,” and Insight works with Belmont and its network of known global buyers to obtain the highest rate of return for clients.

Most technology can be recycled, according to Czarnecki, particularly entire computers, including the glass in the monitor, the plastic in the case, the copper in the power supply and the precious metals used in the circuitry. “If it’s determined an asset that has no value or is at the end of its lifecycle, it’s completely dissembled into salvageable plastic, glass and metal components and sent downstream to reputable recycling vendors and refineries,” says Czarnecki, “And then clients are given a certificate of recycling.”

Items that are marked for redeployment, after they have been audited and wiped, are shipped directly to the new end-user, which may be the original leaser of the equipment or another designated party. In some instances, clients use redeployment for donation purposes, sending the equipment to churches, schools and other community organizations identified by the client.

“Wherever a client tells us to send an asset, that’s where we send it,” says Czarnecki. “This is an excellent example of when proof of erasure is particularly important, since those receiving used equipment want to know this has been done effectively.”

Environmentally friendly, EPA-compliant

Through Insight’s customized disposition website, customers can access all information regarding the asset disposition process, including serial number/asset tag numbers, shipment records, certificates of destruction and certificates of erasure. Customers also can access a disposition request feature to order nationwide pick-ups.

Czarnecki points out that Insight and Belmont Technology strictly adhere to EPA regulations and guidelines that mandate safe disposition and quality-control compliance.

“We follow all ISO-certified procedures,” she says. In addition, Belmont Technology holds several recycling and refurbishing industry certifications, such as R2 and eStewards, which ensure tech-asset disposition is green, legal and secure. “Our clients can be guaranteed that any equipment will be disposed of in the United States,” says Czarnecki. “It will not be shipped overseas and dumped in a landfill or wash up on a shore in China.”

Inside job

Even a tech company isn’t exempt from the inevitable paper trail that builds up at the office. So Insight supports a healthy, green initiative by promoting recycling in the workplace. Each employee has a recycling bin attached to their trashcan and these are distributed throughout company offices. In addition, at Insight’s headquarters in Tempe, Arizona, it uses Iron Mountain for secure shredding of confidential paperwork.

Don’t let your productivity suffer due to IT issues. Besides device replacement and disposal, Insight offers system repair. Learn more here.