No-Nonsense Recycling

Getting rid of old tech equipment now takes as much forethought as purchasing it in the first place did.

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In the end, virtually nothing is thrown away. "There may be a very small amount of material left over, which would be considered fluff -- maybe 1% to 2% of the weight [of the original asset] that has to be disposed of in hazardous waste landfill," says Houghton.

As the market becomes more crowded, some providers of disposition services have begun cutting corners, causing industry watchers to recommend that companies ask their outsourcers to prove they're disposing of assets in a legal and environmentally responsible manner.

Protect Company Data

Regardless of what a company plans to do with its old equipment and whether it contracts with a service provider, the first step on the road to disposal is to protect corporate information by removing all data from hard drives.

"From an information protection perspective, it's imperative that our assets are scrubbed, no matter what we're planning to do with them," says Sharon Dorsey, senior director of information resources at Marriott International Inc.'s technology sourcing and life-cycle management group. There are plenty of off-the-shelf programs that will wipe hard drives, but Dorsey recommends using products that adhere to U.S. Department of Defense standards for data cleansing. "The minimum [number of wipes] for DOD standards is three, but seven is optimal," she says.

Even though data removal is part of the package offered by disposal service providers that Marriott contracts with around the world, Dorsey's team still wipes drives before they leave the company "as an extra step to limit risk," she says.

Protect the Environment

IT employees at Marriott may take a first pass at wiping hard disks to protect company data, but when it comes to protecting the environment, the company completely entrusts to contractors the job of making sure the equipment is taken care of in an environmentally sensitive manner. In the U.S., Marriott uses Intechra Group LLC.

"There's no way I want a Marriott asset disposed of inappropriately against local or state laws and regulations. There's environmental risk," Dorsey says. "A company like Marriott, with 3,400 locations in 68 countries, doesn't have the manpower to do this. Most of the [disposal] companies we deal with are large and have a presence not only in the U.S. but outside of it, too, and they stay current with the local regulations."

For smaller companies that operate only in the U.S., ensuring that assets are properly recycled is an easier process, because there are fewer conflicting regulations and there is less equipment to deal with. Still, it's essential to monitor the process, particularly for companies that have green reputations to maintain.

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