Looking for a Responsible Electronics Recycler? Here are Four Must-Ask Questions to Narrow the Field

Posted by on October 25, 2012

WP-Responsible-RecyclingGone are the days when disposing of old tech gear was as easy as dumping it in the garbage or storing it in a warehouse. Increasingly tough e-waste and data security laws make companies responsible for their obsolete devices and the data contained on those devices long after they have been discarded.

The range and complexity of these laws, combined with the penalties for noncompliance, have led many companies to rely on the resources and expertise of outside vendors to maneuver through the maze of state, federal, and international regulations. Not surprisingly, an

International Association of IT Asset Managers survey conducted last year found that 69 percent of responding companies outsource their IT asset disposal programs.

If your company is among those that choose to partner with a vendor to remarket and recycle its outdated technology, asking these four important questions will help you navigate the selection process.

Is the recycler certified?

Responsible reuse and recycling hinges on two principles: knowing who will handle your old electronics and knowing how they will be handled. Recyclers that have achieved R2, e-Stewards, and NAID certifications are dedicated to conforming to recycling industry best practices that regulate environmental and worker health and safety management systems. Certified recyclers are also committed to carrying out the latest standards that regulate information destruction, and the secure handling, warehousing, and transportation of electronics. Selecting a certified recycler can also minimize the irregularities in environmental protection and worker safety that can result in potential liability concerns for companies sending equipment to be recycled.

Can you visit the recycler’s facility?

While certification delivers assurances that old equipment will be processed in a manner that protects employees and the environment from harm, certification alone should not be the only yardstick by which you measure a possible recycling partner. Conduct a site visit to see a facility’s size, determine how hazardous wastes are managed, observe equipment tear down procedures, and examine the equipment used to shred and separate e-waste. Also, evaluate the physical security measures in use and verify that employees have been background screened and drug tested.

Most recyclers depend on downstream vendors to completely process electronic waste. So during this tour, ask for the names and locations of a recycler’s downstream partners and find out if the recycler conducts regular, on-site audits to ensure these vendors handle materials according to the same environmental, safety, and security standards as the primary recycler.

Can the recycler guarantee data security?

While in use, computers and other data-bearing media are subject to clearly defined security procedures that shield the equipment and the data residing on that equipment from intrusion, loss, and unauthorized access. Sometimes when computers are marked for recycling they fall off the IT department’s radar even though they may still contain readily accessible data that could leave a company susceptible to a data breach. But once a data custodian, always a data custodian, so regardless of a company’s internal data destruction protocols, it’s essential to locate an electronics recycler that takes data security as seriously as you do.

Find a recycler that offers National Institute of Standards and Technology compliant data destruction and validation of that destruction. This step is especially important if your company’s IT assets will be resold or redeployed. This process is only as good as the technicians performing it, so confirm that a recycler has documented policies that cover employee training on the use and calibration of data destruction software and equipment.

Also, understand which data destruction methods will best meet your needs. Reselling IT assets? Data sanitization removes data and allows hard drives to be reused. No plans to reuse hard drives? Degaussing destroys data and renders hard drives useless. Data stored on devices equipped with solid-state drives? Shredding is the only way to guarantee complete data destruction.

Additional security also comes from choosing a recycler that owns its facilities and offers an unbroken chain of custody from collection to transportation to destruction of old electronics. The farther equipment containing sensitive data moves downstream, the tougher it becomes to protect that data. For this reason, it’s essential to establish from the beginning who will have access to your equipment and how it will be handled from the time it’s picked up until it’s processed. When a recycler is able to provide a complete range of recycling services internally, it eliminates reliance on subcontractors to process a company’s old equipment, increases accountability, and simplifies reporting.

Can the recycler protect you if something goes wrong?

A good indicator of a recycler’s ability to do this is evidence of general and excess liability insurance as well as pollution liability and cyber security insurance. An insured recycler is able to protect you from and manage the potential financial risks associated with recycling electronic waste.

With profits, privacy, and the planet on the line, asking these essential questions will get at the core of how a recycler does business and take the guesswork out of choosing an electronics recycler capable of responsibly processing your company’s end-of-life electronics.

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