Asset Recovery & Recycling
One of the biggest problems of e-waste, generated by discarded high-tech equipment, is a source of growing concern among corporate enterprises, governments, environmental groups and the IT industry. Many companies have paid a high price in terms of regulatory fines, bad publicity and even litigation when their PCs turned up in landfills or third-world countries.
An equal concern is data security. Recently, stories have turned up fairly regularly about erased hard drives that weren’t. Social Security numbers or investment information on individuals fell into the hands or criminals. The results, of course, were alarming and/or embarrassing security breaches. The industry is on the brink of a paradigm shift with respect to asset recovery – from cost-avoidance to risk-avoidance. Thought CIO’s and progressive companies are seeing asset recovery less as an unwelcome cost and more as a value-added service, necessary to avoid serious risks and that is where we partner with you.
Hazardous materials contained in CRT’s and other electronics pose a risk to our environment. With their high concentrations of lead, plus mercury, cadmium, beryllium, plastics, flame retardant chemicals and other potentially toxic compounds, PCs, Servers, Copiers and the like can contaminate the air and groundwater and expose people to carcinogens and other toxins when the equipment is handled improperly or sent to a landfill.
Many industry experts agree, the biggest expense associated with PC disposal is the cost of disposing of it improperly – some companies have paid as much as $250,000 in fines. One company paid to remove 3,000 monitors. Three months later, the Department of Environmental Protection called to ask why the company’s monitors were found in a field. In addition to paying to clean up the site, the company was charged $7 per monitor for proper disposal. We have a no-Landfill policy and under no circumstance ship to a third world country.
Examples of security issues abound. Earlier this year, a pair of MIT graduates published a study in which, over two years, they bought 158 used hard drives at second-hand computer stores and on eBay; on 69 drives they found recoverable files, including medical correspondence, credit card numbers and a year’s worth of transactions from an Illinois ATM.
Listed for sale on eBay last year, two discarded Bank of Montreal computers were found to contain customer account numbers and balances. The $15 eBay purchase of a former Morgan Stanley vice president’s old Blackberry yielded a company directory and confidential e-mails. Kentucky state auditors randomly checked a state agency computer – part of a consignment lot of used equipment destined for public sale – and discovered confidential files that named thousands of people with AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.
Clearly, improper disposal of IT assets poses huge security risks. Improper data protection can actually be more expensive than the actual cost of disposition. In many industrialized countries, data protection is legally regulated, particularly in such sectors as health and finance. We recommend that you shred your Hard Drives with us and have the tiny pieces, brought to our smelter to recover the precious metals and turn it into another useful form.
The nations and worlds flood of e-waste shows no signs of abating. In the United States alone, electronic waste (e.g., televisions, computers, VCRs, cellular phones) already constitutes 3 percent to 6 percent of the municipal solid waste stream and is growing rapidly. In Europe, studies estimate that the volume of electronic waste is rising by 4 percent to 6 percent per year – over three times faster than the municipal waste stream.
According to the International Association of Electronics Recyclers, approximately one billion units of computer equipment will become potential scrap between now and 2010.
Experts believe the bulk of U.S. e-waste hasn’t gone anywhere yet, except into storage – many IT organizations simply don’t have the time or resources to deal with it, so they avoid the problem by warehousing old equipment. However, this temporary solution will only grow more costly over time, as the equipment’s value declines and the costs of storage and disposal escalate. A small amount has been donated to schools or charities – but with the decline in prices of new PCs, few schools and charities are willing to accept older equipment.
Don’t forget Asia
Environmentalists are concerned that used IT equipment is going out the back door, to local recyclers who may eventually sell it as mixed scrap to wholesale brokers downstream, who in turn may export equipment or components to other countries, mainly in Asia.
The impact of that disposal practice was brought to light in 2002 when two activist groups released a controversial report that featured the farming village of Guiyu in Guangdong Province, China. Since 1995, Guiyu has become a booming e-waste processing center with tens of thousands of poor and migrant workers – men, women and children – who use primitive and potentially hazardous methods to extract metals for recycling. Most of the e-waste found there was from North America, with smaller amounts from Japan, South Korea and Europe. The water, soil and air in the Guiyu area were intensely polluted.
Although exporting e-waste is not illegal in the U.S., Guiyu photographs displayed asset tags of public and private U.S. organizations that previously owned the equipment – clearly demonstrating the high cost of such a practice to a company’s brand and reputation.