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An often overlooked part of buying new technology for a business is what you will do with the legacy gear that you’re replacing. You have several options for recycling computers, hard drives, and other old IT equipment. Here we’ll talk about what goes into an end-of-life strategy, and how it can earn money for the company. Depending on the age of the equipment, and its material composition, you can expect substantial returns for your efforts.

What should you expect from recycling computers and old equipment?

If you’re like most companies, your goals related to e-waste recycling involve driving value while mitigating risk. You need it to reduce your overall IT spend, and do so with the utmost attention to data security. Almost all e-waste is recyclable; whether you will profit from doing so depends on the equipment you’re recycling, the state laws where your business operates, and whether you partner with a vendor program or third-party recycler.

State regulations governing e-waste vary. Many states incentivize recycling computers and other electronics equipment in order to keep e-waste from landfills. As a result, the US e-waste recycling industry currently adds $20.6 billion to the U.S. economy, according to the CDC in 2017. Depending on where you buy a computer monitor, for example, you may pay a waste fee up front on your purchase.

Understand that not every recycler uses the same methods. If ecology ethics factor into your decision to recycle old computers, you’ll want to vet your IT asset disposition (ITAD) recycling program or partner before engaging. More on how to do that below.

In any case, know that you can easily trade in old technology for gift cards from tech retailers and OEMs.  Rates normally vary depending on age of the equipment, how powerful its components are, and if the equipment is damaged, and the extent of that damage. The NeweggBusiness Tech Trade-Up program swaps gift cards for your old laptops, Chromebooks, mobile phones, tablets, and gaming consoles. Shipping is free, making the ROI proposition as straightforward as they come.

What do to before you recycle computer equipment

If you’re a very small business with fewer than 10 seats, your ITAD needs probably seem manageable to keep in-house. You can scrap your computers yourself if you want. Search for electronics scrap yards in your area. They will pay by the pound for most items, and they pay on the spot. Of course, for many companies, it makes a lot of sense to partner with a third-party company or program.

Whether you’re going DIY, or sending your recycling out for trade-in, make sure you destroy any data stored on the hardware for disposition.  

Every business should have a backup strategy that involves making regular backup copies for data stored on all devices on a business network. Today, with so much work done using mobile devices, make sure you’re not overlooking smartphone and tablet data backups. If you’re not backing up mobile data already, it’s advisable to use a tool like Acronis True Image, which is a business class backup solution designed for Android and iOS mobile devices used in the field.

View software licensing for Acronis True Image

Next steps after backup

Once you’ve backed up business data on your data storage medium of choice, it’s time to remove it from the storage hardware you’re discarding. Know that you have several methods to wipe a hard drive securely. Here’s a quick summary:

Overwriting is one of the most common ways to mitigate data remanence. There are several inexpensive (sometimes free!) applications you can use to overwrite sensitive data and secure the medium. Darik’s Boot and Nuke (DBAN) is a well-known favorite among IT pros, and there are dozens of alternatives for you to consider.

If you’re wiping a bunch of laptop or 3.5-inch hard drives, a standalone eraser dock is a device that helps you wipe hard drives quickly and securely—meeting the Department of Defense (DoD) requirements for data security.

When wiping flash storage drives, SSD manufacturers provide utilities for you to use. Find options for your brand. Intel SSD Toolbox and Samsung Magician are examples for solid state drives made by those brands.

Don’t forget to wipe your router

Remember that networking devices have disk storage as well, so if you’re sending these off to recycle make sure you wipe your router, switches, gateways, and firewall equipment. These may hold data that is sensitive to your network security. Network equipment vendors have instructions for wiping whichever devices you have deployed.

After your data is safely removed from your disk drives, you have some options about what to do with your leftover computer hardware. Endpoints like desktop computers or laptops you might donate to a charitable cause. Usually you can write off donations when you file taxes. Or you can ship to a retailer or OEM to recycle. If you choose to recycle yourself, remove the batteries—many salvage yards won’t take them, and you have to dispose of them separately.

What should you expect when working with an ITAD partner?

Many companies turn to a company working in IT asset disposition when getting rid of old computers. You will find companies that will come to your place of business to take your e-waste. Many of these companies offer services for data destruction as a value-add. Remember that not all companies handle e-waste recycling with the same concern for the environment—or data security for that matter.

If you have concerns about where your equipment will wind up after you part ways, perform due diligence in choosing an e-waste recycling partner. Below find questions you should ask, and checks you should be making.

  • Check for an unbroken chain of custody for your e-waste. Ask if they use subcontractors. If they do, look into whether those companies are reputable.
  • Look for a vendor that offers data destruction in line with NIST compliance for secure disposition. Depending on materials you recycle, ITAD companies may refurbish or resell IT assets so it’s critical that company data is destroyed.
  • It’s reassuring to use a vendor that performs hard drive destruction on-site. Such is common practice with regulated data like payment card information and medical records.
  • Make sure your ITAD partner accepts all the equipment you’re retiring. Almost all accept computers, laptops, and printers. Check about older equipment like CRT monitors and specialized instruments.
  • Look for certifications that aligns with your company posture on the environment. Sustainability, zero-landfill R2, e-Stewards, ISO 14001, OHSAS 18001 are some of the more prominent standards for safe handling of e-waste.

See more: How to earn NeweggBusiness gift cards when recycling computers.

Adam Lovinus

Author Adam Lovinus

A tech writer and Raspberry Pi enthusiast from Orange County, California.

More posts by Adam Lovinus

Join the discussion One Comment

  • Brian says:

    Sorry, but I’ve yet to see an e-waste facility in California (Bay area) which pays a nickel for their haul aways. There are e-waste church drives from time to time, but again, that’s for them to make money from.

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