Many enterprises don\u2019t think much about where their obsolete IT gear winds up, but it\u2019s possible to be green-minded, not bust the budget, and even benefit a little from proper disposal. Here is how.\nGo back to where you bought\nThe first option to consider is returning the equipment the vendor or reseller you bought it from, says Susan Middleton, research director, financing strategies, at IDC. \u201cEvery year we ask customers, \u2018How do you handle end-of-lease?\u2019 Overwhelmingly, they return to vendor or partner who are better equipped to handle recycling,\u201d she says.\nVendors often give a fair-market buyout for the devices that can go toward new products, Middleton says. \u201cThe big players like IBM and HPE do a great job because they can clean them up and resell them, and the facilities to do that are pretty big,\u201d she says.\nVet disposal firms\nIf that\u2019s not an option,\u00a0 and you have to find a disposal company \u2013 an IT Asset Disposition (ITAD) service \u2013 on your own, the first thing to check is whether it is properly certified, says Mike Satter, president of IT asset disposal and data-center-decommissioning provider OceanTech. Proper certification starts with a Responsible Recycling (R2) certification.\nR2s are administered by Sustainable Electronics Recycling International (SERI), a non-profit organization dedicated to the responsible reuse, repair, and recycling of electronic products.\u00a0It sets the R2 standard and audits ITAD providers that carry the standard to make sure they are in compliance with the standard. Being responsible means creating a paper trail that shows the electronic waste \u2013 which contains heavy metals including arsenic, beryllium, cadmium, chromium, cobalt, indium, lead, mercury, nickel, and thallium, and are toxic in high enough doses \u2013 is reused, recovered or recycled.\nSome disposal firms dump old gear in general landfills or export them to other countries where regulations aren\u2019t as strong. \u00a0\n\u201cAny ITAD service provider that does not carry an R2 certification cannot fully guarantee zero landfill or zero export of materials,\u201d says Satter. \u201cMany recyclers will say they are compliant, but without verified certifications you\u2019re taking a chance.\u201d\nMark Dobson, IT asset disposal security specialist with NextUse, a firm that removes and the resells second-hand IT assets, cites six disposal certifications that companies should look for: R2, \u00a0e-Stewards, \u00a0NAID, NAID AAA (which has greater certification of regulatory compliance), ISO 14001, and ISO 18001. \u201cR2 would be the floor,\u201d he says.\nBriefly, here\u2019s what these certifications do.\n\ne-Stewards is a standard set by the Basel Action Network in Sweden, which recognizes electronics recyclers that adhere to the most stringent environmentally and socially responsible practices when recovering hazardous electronic materials. In particular it is focused on making sure it was not shipped off to poor countries, where underage workers were exposed to toxic materials in careless work conditions.\nNAID and NAID AAA certification are set by The National Association of Information Destruction, a standards body that sets rules for the proper disposal of information devices, like hard drives.\nISO 14001 is a management framework for organizations to \u201cachieve the intended outcomes of its environmental management system, which provide value for the environment, the organization itself and interested parties.\u201d Outcomes of the framework should enhance environmental performance, fulfill compliance obligations and achieve environmental objectives. ISO is the International Organization of Standards, a global standards body.\nISO 18001 is the international standard for health and safety management systems.\n\nDobson says ITAD companies that do it right are using one or more of the certification standards for data security and responsible recycling, and getting and maintaining those standard takes substantial initial and on-going investment in facilities, equipment, hardware, software, personnel, policies and procedures.\n\u201cWhen those vendors charge more for their services, it is to cover those expenses, not to be excessively profitable,\u201d he says. \u201cCompanies that do it the cheap way are skipping many if not all of those investments.\u201d\nIf an e-waste company says they will take retired equipment for free, consider that a red flag, says Satter. \u201cCompliant e-waste companies have to hire vetted\/credentialed employees, which must pass background checks to ensure compliance is delivered,\u201d Satter says. \u201cAll of that costs money.\u201d\nBut the additional cost of using a certified company is minor. \u201cWe\u2019re not talking hundreds of thousands of dollars,\u201d says Dobson. \u201cEven on the biggest job, it\u2019s a few thousand dollars difference between the right way and the cheap way. For your average client, you\u2019re talking thousands of dollars between the best vendors possible and totally half-assing it with the cheapest vendor that\u2019s not operating in anyone\u2019s best interest but their own.\u201d\nPenalties\nState environmental laws about illegal disposal are mainly enforced by state attorneys general. In addition, various federal agencies enforce violations of their agency's laws and regulations.\nSatter thinks enforcement needs to be tougher. \u201cIt will take the federal government to create extreme enforcement measures to ensure our e-waste is handled properly. The CEO or owner of companies should be arrested if they violate illegal e-waste dumping laws or knowingly exports e-waste to developing countries,\u201d he says.\nIn one case, two executives of a Seattle e-waste recycling company got 28 months in jail for improper disposal of e-waste. In that case, it was e-Stewards that got wise to their illegal activities and turned them in to the Washington state AG.\nBut that\u2019s an exception, not the rule. Dobson says he sees very little enforcement. \u201cThe regulations are in place but spotily enforced, and penalties are not incentivizing. A lot of this is viewed as the cost of doing business. They build the fines for if they get caught into the cost of disposal,\u201d he says.\nFines for illegal dumping of old IT assets, are determined by the size of the violation, the clean-up cost, and the guidelines in the state or federal law. AT&T got one of the largest fines on record in 2014 for illegal disposal of e-waste, socked with a $52 million fine. Two years later, Apple got a spanking of $450,000 for its own illegal dumping.\nMiddleton says first and foremost companies should ask for a paper trail to verify proper handling and disposal of assets from the moment they are picked up. \u201cAsk about who certifies that your [disposal] partners are doing it correctly. When you don\u2019t get a good answer, you walk away,\u201d she says.\nBut she says she thinks most firms are legit. \u201cAnyone that\u2019s lasted in this business isn\u2019t shady. The majority that have been around a while are responsible,\u201d says Middleton.