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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Companies that use outsourcers need to be sure that the service providers are recycling and disposing of components properly. According to the Basel Action Network, which focuses on issues of global e-waste, as much as 80% of electronics that are collected to be "recycled" actually end up on barges bound for countries like China, Vietnam, Nigeria, Ghana and India. Typically, the e-waste sits in landfills, since many of those countries don't prohibit such practices.

To help prevent that kind of behavior, the Basel Action Network offers certification through its e-Stewards program to help identify service providers that responsibly recycle and reuse electronics.

Some companies go as far as tracking the disposal process, even when it's being handled by a trusted third party. Financial services company Citigroup Inc., for example, has a variety of disposal methods for the IT equipment used by its 300,000 employees around the world.

If an aging system isn't recovered for reuse, and if resale isn't an option, the equipment will be "demanufactured" by one of the company's three main outsourcers, explains Jim Brown, senior vice president responsible for desktop asset management at Citi.

Brown, who is based in St. Louis, says he works closely with his providers to understand exactly where all of the materials in discarded equipment end up. "They tell us where the metals go -- that a component went to this plastics company. Some of it goes to Trex, which makes plastic boards, some of it is used to make pontoons on docks," he says. "We have a zero-landfill policy, and we take the long view on recycling."

Citigroup set up its disposal process so that internal customers are encouraged to recycle, he says. The company's department managers must account for the cost of equipment disposal in their budgets, so the more they can reuse within their departments, the less they have to pay.

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