Managing e-waste in business

Iron Mountain

By Paul Flatt, Director APAC, Asset Lifecycle Management
Wednesday, 23 February, 2022

Managing e-waste in business

E-waste, comprising used electronic devices, is the fastest growing waste stream globally and Australia is one of the highest producers, ranking 5th in the world.

When consumers upgrade devices such as mobile phones, laptops, tablets, PCs and TVs, the used devices are usually discarded in a drawer at home for weeks or months to come. In a drive to reduce waste and extend the life of devices, manufacturers are starting to make it easier for consumers to access device repair services, such as Apple’s new Self Service Repair program.

The same is happening within businesses. As organisations prepare to return to the office, many are looking to roll out new IT equipment to support long-term hybrid working policies. Often, used devices will be unnecessarily disposed of and many will end up in landfill. Alternatively, they may be stored throughout the office taking up space that could be repurposed for more valuable uses. In both scenarios, businesses are leaving themselves exposed to data breaches and leaks which could result in financial and reputation risk.

For businesses uncertain how to address the issue and meet the changing demands of legislation, technology and environmental demands, top tips to manage and dispose of old devices follow.

Understand what to do with old devices when they are upgraded and replaced

Understanding which assets contain sensitive data and where they are located is necessary. This goes beyond commonly used assets such as laptops, PCs and mobile phones and includes other crucial equipment, such as servers, cloud storage, backup appliances, software licences and more.

Working together, IT and business leaders should ensure that consistent redeployment and disposal policies and procedures are implemented across an organisation. It is essential that all employees are aware of such policies and that teams and individuals buy into them. As hybrid working policies become the longer-term norm, it is essential that compliance is monitored.

Working with a secure IT asset disposition (ITAD) service provider can help to facilitate the development and implementation of such policies and help leaders to understand the variety of options available to manage and process end-of-life equipment, safely and securely.

An environmentally responsible approach to dealing with e-waste

A comprehensive ITAD program not only mitigates the risk of data breaches but also helps an organisation to meet its environmental and social responsibility goals. The three ‘R’s’ of the waste hierarchy — reduce, reuse and recycle — offer a simple and clear guide for environmentally responsible actions to deal with e-waste.

Reducing the volume of products purchased is the first place to start to eliminate waste. Sometimes a device really does need to be upgraded or replaced, but there are often several options to consider beforehand.

Ensuring assets are properly maintained with minor repairs conducted will help to extend the lifecycle. This can offer cost savings by reducing the amount of new equipment that needs to be purchased. If something does need to be upgraded, refurbishing old devices, either for re-sale or to be redeployed internally, is a valuable alternative to discarding functional devices.

Remarketing a device can unlock significant value for an organisation. If a device truly has reached the end of its valuable life, it should be securely and sustainably recycled, using environmentally sound processes.

Reduce the risk of data breaches and leaks

There is often an assumption that when assets are disposed of that the data contained within is also destroyed. However, an active global marketplace for used IT equipment can leave organisations unknowingly vulnerable.

Working with an accredited ITAD provider will ensure that data is securely erased from devices, enabling refurbished devices to be re-sold, ultimately prolonging the lifecycle and eliminating waste. Professional ITAD vendors have the necessary equipment and certifications to wipe storage media completely, and the knowledge and experience to recommend the best approach for each used asset.

Understanding the processes and procedures to follow to securely and safely dispose of used devices will not only offer cost-recovery opportunities, protect businesses financially and reputationally as well as help to meet sustainability goals and protect the environment, but they will also help to free up office space. As businesses plan the future of the office, there is no longer any need to waste valuable space to store used IT equipment. Instead, there is an opportunity to repurpose space to be used for alternative, and more valuable, uses.

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