Is Legacy Hardware Being Correctly Reused or Disposed?

27-09-2018 |   |  By Christian Cawley

Over the years, old desktops, laptops, tablet PCs, printers, docking stations, PDAs, and long abandoned mobile devices have accumulated. Entire rooms (perhaps even buildings) are dedicated to the storage of old technology. This is happening despite the proliferation of legislation dealing with the safe and correct methods of disposal for legacy hardware.

Meeting Local Legislation

Governments and trade bodies around the world have issued guidance on how to properly discard old tech. It isn't a case of just dumping old PCs and monitors in the trash. It's not as if you can easily donate devices to charities and churches to avoid taking the right steps, either.

Many devices come with their own specific issues. Smartphones are made with heavy metals; printer toner is possibly a carcinogen; computer motherboards and processors include elements such as antimony, arsenic, cobalt, lead, mercury, and many others.

In concentration, these are poisonous to humans and wildlife.

Then there is the issue of using computers for as long as possible. The theory is that this will reduce the requirement for new machines to be manufactured, and lessen the carbon footprint and ecological concerns of the process. In truth, of course, it leads to a shrinking of the PC industry, and potentially lead to cost cutting which can have its own environmental impact.

It is therefore vital that organizations follow national legislation on the correct disposal of hardware.

Safe and Correct Disposal

Various differences in the safe and correct disposal laws around the globe prevent us from listing universally accurate steps. However, organizations should be able to contract the services of a professional company who can assist in the safe recycling and reprocessing of old and irreparable hardware.

Before doing this, however, check with the current hardware management contractor. It is possible that a facility for the collection and safe destruction of old equipment is already agreed on.

What Can Be Reused?

Commencing any project like this requires a complete adherence to asset registration policy. It's vital to know what hardware is set to be discarded. In most cases, this will need to be passed to the disposal company.

However, it's also vital for such a registry to be compiled for internal purposes. Some PCs and printers might belong to particular departments, for instance. Sending these devices to the reprocessing unit might result in some uncomfortable interdepartmental emails, a situation that could be easily avoided with cooperation and easy access to the asset list.

Keep an Eye Out for Gems

It's easy to get carried away with the process. However, the wholesale dumping of gear should be prevented. Careful asset management will uncover not just a detailed view of the hardware that needs reprocessing, but an insight into how the organization previously operated.

This can be revelatory, if only for the discovery of literal museum pieces. If operational, such hardware might be donated to specialist museums, for example. Some universities might also be interested.

If managed correctly, the entire recycling and reprocessing operation can be given press attention, highlighting the environmental credentials of the organization.

And Then There's the Data Issue…

With arrangements made for the safe jettison of worthless old hardware, it's not unreasonable to take the time to establish a system of backing up all data and rendering the hard disk drives unreadable before discarding.

Older computers have far smaller hard disk drives, so backing up shouldn't be a huge issue. There is an issue with legacy malware, but modern antivirus solutions should be able to deal with this.

What all businesses want to avoid is the possibility of key contracts, correspondence, and other private (and commercially sensitive) data falling into the wrong hands. Archive data, and fully wipe disk drives before reprocessing.

 

Read more electronics news related to recycling legacy hardware: Recycling Challenges the Electronics Industry to Clean Up its Act


By Christian Cawley

Christian Cawley is a freelance technology writer, with a background in healthcare and financial services industries. He writes extensively online, and contributes to print periodicals and specials.

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