Electronics are the fastest growing solid waste stream in the world. It's estimated that we'll throw away roughly 60 million tons annually by 2021. Not only is that more pressure on our overtaxed landfills, but e-waste also contains harmful materials such as heavy metals like lead, mercury, cadmium and beryllium, and hazardous chemicals.
Cutting the amount of e-waste your organization generates is an excellent way to reach your sustainability goals, but you need a plan. It's far more complicated than replacing outdated IT equipment and simply carting it to a recycler or putting it on eBay. There are many considerations, such as confidential data on devices and logistics, that all require a well-thought-out strategy. IT asset management should be a comprehensive cradle-to-grave approach that ends with properly-done IT Asset Disposition (ITAD). It goes well beyond environmental concerns. It makes good business sense.
What is ITAD?
ITAD is the disposal of obsolete or unwanted equipment in a safe and eco-conscious manner. It also has other key functions such as helping to minimize costs, maximize returns on remarketed technology, and helping keep sensitive data safe and secure.
From end to end, the most complete ITAD processes include the following, fully-auditable and trackable steps:
1) Equipment Removal
Whether done in-house or by a partner, old devices need to be taken offline and decoupled from the corporate infrastructure. This is an involved activity with a technical, step-by-step process. Each data-bearing device must be completely uninstalled, stripped of its network access, and meticulously accounted for.
2) Data Destruction and Sanitization
This is probably the most crucial step in the ITAD process. Every single data-bearing device—PCs, smartphones, tablets, printers, and fax machines—must have its data wiped. Whether this data removal takes place onsite or at a remote facility is something to work out with your provider as there are several time, cost—and in some cases—regulatory considerations to account for.
Clearing data is especially important for those working in heavily regulated industries with very strict data privacy compliance in place, such as financial services and healthcare. Whether via software solutions or shredding the device (and the associated hard drive), data must be removed from every device. The best ITAD providers use tested and proven data wiping software and/or hard drive shredders that help prevent sensitive data from being leaked.
Getting your IT assets from Point A to Point B is a big part of the ITAD process. For data protection, you should take care to use a provider that has been fully vetted, and employ the same due diligence for any downstream logistics partners. Make sure to request an auditable report of transport and receipt of the assets you're getting rid of.
4) Equipment Remarketing
Once your unneeded assets have been shipped and data sanitized, it's time to explore the areas where you can remarket your used devices. This is where you can significantly reduce your equipment total cost of ownership. Good ITAD partners will have several outlets for remarketing, thus maximizing your remarketing value. Again, a reputable ITAD provider will include reporting for any remarketed or resold assets, so you can gain visibility into how much money you're getting back.
5) Disposition and Recycling
Once resalable equipment has been uninstalled, data sanitized, graded, earmarked for resale, and shipped, the remaining unwanted IT assets must be handled. This is where good ITAD providers really shine—in the safe and environmentally-sensitive disposal and recycling of those assets. One of the primary goals of a reputable ITAD provider is to demand and enforce the proper handling of e-waste.
6) Reporting and Certification
It's in auditability and reporting that organizations gain peace of mind the ITAD job has been accomplished correctly. Providers must provide verifiable certificates and reports that each phase of the ITAD process has been completed.
Choose the Right Partner
At the end of the day, your choice in ITAD provider can make or break your return on investment. With thorough research on prospective providers, you can save your company from a data breach public relations nightmare while contributing to your social duty of environmental responsibility. If your ITAD experience is less than satisfactory, it's time to start comparison shopping for a new provider and find a partner who will adhere to your company's needs and policies.