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Seven things you need to know about hardware disposal

By James Careless, Network World
July 22, 2013 06:05 AM ET

Network World - From the first day that you plug in a new piece of IT hardware, the clock starts ticking toward the day when it will be pulled out of service.

When that day comes, responsible IT execs ensure that the now-surplus component is either repurposed, resold or recycled – with none of its toxic components ending up in an unregulated Third World dump.

Fortunately, it is possible for proactive-minded IT departments to prevent this from happening, thus protecting the environment, people, and the valuable public image (and stock price) of the company.

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Here are the seven things IT managers need to know about safe hardware disposal.

1. Disposal costs should be built into hardware lifecycle budgets

Big corporations go through lots of IT equipment. “Akamai Technologies' global content distribution network is made up of 127,000 servers and is growing daily,” says Nicole Peill-Moelter, Akamai’s director of environmental sustainability. “These servers are spread across 81 countries in 1,150 networks, and we refresh them on a four-year basis.”

Every piece of IT hardware – be it a server, monitor, router, keyboard or mouse – has a value and costs associated with it throughout its lifespan. They include the cost of acquisition, installation, housing, maintenance, and ultimately disposal.

Rackspace is a managed hosting and cloud computing company with nine data centers and 100,000 servers in use at
any given time. Melissa Gray, Rackspace’s director of global sustainability says, “TCO includes the cost of responsible hardware disposal once it is past its operational lifespan.”

She adds, “This means that the money is there in the budget to dispose of our surplus equipment responsibly, ensuring that Rackspace’s equipment does not cause any environmental issues.”

The same approach is followed by Akamai. “We are committed to being environmentally and socially responsible, which means that we consider and include disposal costs in our TCO,” Peill-Moelter says. “In doing so, our goal is to budget for the ‘greenest’ equipment disposal, not the cheapest.”

2. Be sure to find a disposal company that’s certified

There are all kinds of IT equipment recycling firms promising to provide responsible equipment disposal to companies, institutions and individuals. The key to ensuring that the company you choose does what it promises is to select a recycler with strong credentials, Gray says.

Fortunately, there are certification programs to verify such promises. One of these is e-Stewards, which is backed by the Basel Action Network non-profit waste watchdog group, and endorsed by corporate heavy-hitters such as Alcoa, Bloomberg, Boeing and Wells Fargo. Another is Responsible Recycling (R2) Solutions. Both programs are endorsed by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Once you know what to look for, certified hardware disposal firms are not that hard to find. For instance, Newport Computers of Rochester, N.H., is “a certified e-Steward and R2/RIOS (Recycling Industry Operating Standards) Certified Electronics Recycler,” says Anne M. McKivergan, one of the company’s two vice presidents. “We find that many of our customers are requiring one or both of those certifications these days as proof of our commitment to responsible handling of the assets.”

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