Staying competitive in today’s tech-dependent business environment means upgrading your computers every few years. But what do you do with the old units? Legally, you can’t toss them in the trash. And if you want to donate them or sell them, you need to ensure that confidential customer data and company trade secrets are wiped clean before you hand them over. And if you want to be viewed as an environmentally conscious firm, you’ll need to find an eco-friendly way to dispose of them. Finding a responsible way to recycle or dispose of your old business computers, monitors and printer cartridges—often called e-waste—is not a waste of time.
Responsible e-waste disposal can:
- Prevent data from falling into the wrong hands.
- Free up storage space at your business location.
- Provide tax deductions for your business (if you donate to charity).
- Improve your image as a good corporate citizen.
If your computer is working, pay it forward
Your working computers and monitors may still have life in them. You can give them away or sell them to someone or to an organization that can really use them. Some charities will even come and pick up your used computer equipment.
Find a compliant local recycler
Although federal law mandates guidelines for e-waste, your state laws may differ. For example, California's landmark Electronic Waste Recycling Act made it illegal to dump computer monitors and computer equipment containing hazardous materials in public landfills and imposed a fee at the time of sale. Always ask the recycler if they are conforming to state and federal laws. Find out where your e-waste is going and how it is going to be handled. The value of your computer is in the heavy metals; unscrupulous recyclers may sell the computers to traders who ship them to third-world countries with no environmental laws to protect workers or the environment.
Environmental Protection Agency’s state listings
Erase your data
U.S. corporations must comply with a variety of laws and regulations regarding the removal of data from computers they donate, recycle or dispose of. There are several software programs that will erase data from your hard drive. Note that some people believe that if hackers really want to get a hold of your data, they will be able to access it even if you use data-erasing software.
Destroy hard drives that have top secret or sensitive data
Prevent confidential data from falling into the wrong hands by having your hard drives destroyed. Make sure you choose a data destruction service that's certified by the National Association for Information Destruction (NAID) so you can be confident that all the data has been destroyed.
Choose merchants who provide recycling programs
Facilitate removal of your old equipment by purchasing computer equipment from vendors who offer recycling services.
Recycle printer supplies, too
Did you know that three to four quarts of oil are used to make a toner cartridge? And half a gallon is used to make an inkjet cartridge? Environmentally conscious companies can reduce waste by recycling printer supplies. Many manufacturers and office supply retailers offer recycling programs that make it easy for small businesses to recycle.
- Evaluate recycling programs not by price but by environmental standards.
- Don't ever dump monitors or computers.
- Don't buy computer equipment that you don't really need.
- Don't wait to recycle. Recycle now. About 72% of all retired electronic products are stored for an average of three years. Resale value will be lost, while needlessly occupying valuable storage space.