No dumping allowed

11 Dec 2006

As equipment lifecycles shorten and regulations tighten, companies have to start thinking as much about disposing of gear as they do on acquiring it, and helping customers do the same

There are many reasons for getting rid of IT equipment other than obsolescence. Upgrades to smaller, more powerful machines are rapidly reducing the lifecycle for equipment which in most cases can still be used. A move to a new premise can also cause a clearing out of ageing systems.

So what happens to the old gear that gets replaced‾ In years past the equipment was either sold on or simply dumped, but vendors and users alike have recently taken to much more environmentally-conscious actions. Companies generally dispose of electronic waste in three ways: equipment resale, recycling and donation.

'It's a matter of identifying what can be used. If the gear is not workable, then we get a recycling company, but sometimes we can also donate to schools and NGOs,' said a Bangkok-based executive, whose firm recently relocated and used the opportunity to upgrade much of its IT equipment.

Increasingly, IT gear will be refurbished and put back into service somewhere else. Some IT departments also use third-party recyclers and manage to recoup some of their investment. Many IT equipment and device manufacturers have introduced take-back programs to ease end-users of the burden of disposing end-of-life assets.

Handset vendor Nokia has been running a mobile phone and accessories take-back and recycling scheme in China since 2002.

Chen Min, Nokia China senior manager of environmental affairs, said the company has installed recycling bins in more than 100 cities in China for the collection old mobile phones. It has also partnered with local telcos to implement recycling of phones and network equipment.

'We collect our waste and send it to authorized recyclers that will then dismantle and destroy the equipment before going though the recycling process. All the data will be destroyed in the process,' says Chen.

actively promoting take-back programs, either individually or in partnership with government bodies. There is no 100% guarantee that data in recycled PCs will not be stolen, but users of these products are secure in the knowledge that there is an audit trail to back them up in the event of data spillage or data theft.

HP, which has been doing what it calls 'asset recovery' for the past 20 years, is now highlighting its efforts and making them more prominent in line with growing customer demand for such services, according to Carsten Aherns, HP director of Asia Pacific Equipment Management and Remarketing.

'Customers are starting to put more emphasis on the whole lifecycle of products and they are asking for asset recovery services,' Aherns said.

He pointed to four reasons why asset recovery was growing in importance. One is that product lifecycles are shortening and equipment is being swapped out while it still has value. Another reason is that customers are seeking less complexity in the network and often will re-architect their network using equipment from fewer vendors. Regulatory issues also can mean that companies will look to more professional ways of disposing of old equipment, while security concerns - the need to ensure data cannot be retrieved once the equipment has been disposed of - was another.

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