Improper disposal is a hot button issue that grows proportionately year by year as the need for IT asset disposal increases. There is an ever-escalating cycle of stories citing examples of disposed IT assets discovered in landfills within the United States and elsewhere. These discoveries point to us as uncaring environmental violators.
Sadly, for some organizations, it is only the fear of reprisal or retribution that stops them from illegally disposing of their IT assets; secondary to that is conscience and environmental concerns. The driving force behind illegal asset dumping can usually be traced back to saving money, chosen instead of the more costly legal, environmentally safe disposal practices. Fortunately, the tide is turning towards correct disposal. For those who continue their illegal practices, there is always the chance of appearing on 20/20, or some other televised broadcast that exposes criminals and their activities.
Another factor well known to many institutions (from experience) is the need of security for safeguarding organizational data. How many times have we read about the devastating effects of sensitive information reaching the wrong hands? Was it bank information for thousands of customers? Were their account data and Social Security numbers compromised? How do we know? Was the breach pertaining to personal medical information for thousands of patients? The lists of events that have already happened seem endless. How that information ended up in the wrong hands is a security issue that must be solved to prevent occurrences in the future. But now it’s time for damage control. Sensitive organizational and possibly customer data has been discovered. It really doesn’t matter if the information was stolen in route to an ITAD facility, or if the data was found on hard drives discovered in a landfill, compromised data leads to lost customer confidence and legal problems.
Both environmental compliance and data security are enhanced by organizational ITAM programs beginning with policies and process development and through screening and auditing of any ITAD vendors participating in the processes.
There are ample justifications for building a proactive disposal management program for the organization’s electronic devices. There are quite a few eye-opening statistics data available that back up the importance of proper electronic waste disposal and recycling such as:
- Every year, an estimated 400 million obsolete electronic units are scrapped. In 2010, that figure increased dramatically to an estimated three billion units
- An estimated 50-80 percent of US electronic waste collected for recycling is sent to Asia
- Monitor glass by weight contains roughly 20% lead. When crushed in a landfill, it is only a matter of time until the lead leaches into the ground water
- Just 1/70 of a teaspoon of mercury is enough to contaminate a 20 acre lake, rendering the fish inedible
- In the US, municipal incineration of electronic waste is the largest source of cancer-producing dioxins and is among the largest sources of heavy metal contamination in the atmosphere
These statistics are from greencitizen.com and are quite sobering and support development of an ITAM program with a strong disposal program. An additional fact is that disposal management doesn’t have to be an unreasonable cost to the organization. In addition to the benefit of doing the “right thing,” the maturity e-scrap industry is offering many service choices depending on the organization’s volume and age of assets. Since continued use is the best resolution of the environmental issues, many vendors offer refurbishment and resale services.
IAITAM is vendor neutral and cannot recommend a specific vendor, but there are many reputable IT Asset Disposition (ITAD) vendors available. Begin with internet searches and continue the investigation of the vendors into their credentials, services and history. There are a number of ISO standards to look for as well as certifications such as R2 (Responsible Recycling) and e-Stewards that provide evidence of appropriate disposal and recycling practices. Touring facilities and verifying references also help distinguish the best candidate for your organization’s disposal program.
Choosing an ITAD vendor based only on lowest cost can be a disaster for the security of the organization and to environmental compliance. Thankfully, the practice of hiring a disposal vendor that utilizes the don’t ask, don’t tell policy of asset disposal is an outdated action based on the increased awareness and knowledge of the IT Asset Management profession.