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Guest post: Are you asking your IT asset disposal provider the right questions?

When refreshing your company’s IT equipment, you have to consider the following: where should the old equipment go and how should you dispose of it?

If you are looking for the most environmentally-friendly solution, you should consider looking for a commercial or third sector IT refurbisher, as  refurbishing a computer is 20 times more energy efficient than recycling it.

But with many IT refurbishing companies, you need to ask the right questions to certify that your old equipment is handled in the right manner and your data is protected.

1.      Are they a legally registered company?

If you go for a commercial refurbisher, you must check if they are legally registered as a business. A third sector refurbisher must be registered with the Charity Commission and have some information about the way they reuse their equipment listed on their website.

2.      Do they hold e-Waste permits?

Any organisation handling e-Waste should hold a Waste Carrier Licence delivered by the Environment Agency (see example). This should be renewed on a yearly basis. Ask the refurbisher to send you a copy of the licence and make sure to check the date on the documents.

3.      Are they compliant with the WEEE directive?

A professional refurbisher should share their Approved Authorised Treatment Facility Certificate (AATF) with you (see example), under the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive 2013 also provided by the Environment Agency. The refurbisher should also share information about WEEE on their website and detail how they are compliant with the directive.

4.      What is their data destruction policy and certification?

All companies retain private and confidential information on their computers; therefore, destruction of data is critical for any business. Ask the refurbisher what erasure software they are using and what version of the software they would use on your equipment.

Erasure software, such as the solution provided by Kroll Ontrack, is internationally certified by the National Security agencies of countries such as the United Kingdom, Sweden or Netherlands. You also need to ask the refurbisher for documents proving that they are compliant with the Data Protection Act 1998 and what measures they take to ensure that your equipment is securely stored until the data is wiped.

Refurbishers should provide you with a certificate of data destruction within 2 to 3 weeks after collection of your equipment. It is always best to have that timeframe for receiving the certificate of data destruction written in an agreement to avoid any delay.

5.      Can they guarantee 0% landfill of the non-reusable equipment?

As sustainability is important for businesses, you need to ask the refurbisher for details about how they will dispose of non-reusable equipment. For example at Computer Aid, we send all non-reusable equipment to a recycling company that dispose of PCs and laptops in an ethical manner. When non-reusable equipment is recycled, ensure that the environment agency certificate of the subcontractor is shared with you before the recycling process starts.

For refurbished IT equipment that have reach their end-of-life, we work with our Belgian partner Close the Gap in countries such as Ghana, Kenya and Chile to build end-of-life recycling centres to avoid landfill dumping in developing countries.

6.      Are the devices tracked once refurbished?

Most third sector refurbishers should track the refurbished devices and should be able to provide you with some up-to-date information about when PCs or laptops leave their warehouse for projects. It usually takes between 10 and 14 weeks for the equipment to be shipped within the UK or abroad once the data has been destroyed.

7.      Do they provide CSR and PR stories?

The environment is becoming increasing important in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) planning and PR communications, so it is also important to ask the IT refurbisher, prior to the agreement, if they can provide you with case studies or information written for you to provide to new donors and clients. This should include information about the reuse/recycle ratio for the equipment handled. If they are a third sector refurbisher, ask for stories from beneficiaries of their old IT equipment, which you could share with your customers, employees and shareholders.

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About Rajeh Shaikh

Marketing and PC Donations Manager for Computer Aid and strong advocate of ICT for Development (ICT4D). Working with businesses to safely refurbish computers and deliver them to beneficiaries on projects in developing countries as well as in the UK.