IT Equipment Disposal


Proper disposal of IT equipment procedure has become increasingly relevant. According to research by the Synergy Research Group, global spending on data centre hardware and software grew to $152 billion in 2019.

Commercial investment into both on-premises data centres and cloud technology is expected to continue throughout the coming decade, increasing pressures for the secure disposal of IT equipment.

Likewise, the increased global adoption of cloud-based technologies and solutions since the onset of COVID-19 has led to issues of IT hardware disposal, as individuals and organizations upgrade old equipment or buy new infrastructure.

Therefore, the disposal of IT equipment is becoming a burning issue, in the light of all this spending on new hardware and systems.

In this article, we’ll be looking at the reasons why hard disk and data destruction are so important, how to destroy hard disks, and some of the best practices for getting this done.

What is IT Equipment Disposal?

Making investments into new IT infrastructure also involves making decisions about what happens to existing systems and equipment. To effectively manage both new and used assets, any enterprise that relies on IT must have a coherent strategy for the life cycle of their hardware asset management. This has to cover the whole lifetime, from initial procurement, through standard service life, to ultimate decommissioning and disposal of IT equipment.

IT equipment disposal is the process of getting rid of obsolete or unwanted digital and electronic equipment in a safe and environmentally responsible manner. It’s often referred to as IT Asset Disposition or ITAD.

While it’s critical for enterprises to effectively secure sensitive information and intellectual property resident on electronic devices during their service life, it is equally important to follow IT equipment disposal best practices when retiring or discarding this hardware. This includes rendering all storage devices and media inoperable and/or incapable of leaking data to third parties via data recovery and ensuring the physical waste materials’ safe and ecologically sensitive treatment.

IT Equipment Disposal​

Besides data security matters, the disposal of IT equipment procedure for enterprises must also consider whether to refurbish, resell, recycle, or discard business equipment.

Disposal of IT equipment by refurbishment or reselling can return value to the organization by extending the life of infrastructure that’s in use or delivering direct monetary gains.

Disposal of IT equipment by recycling or discarding removes the physical burden of storing hardware on-site but must be undertaken in a manner that’s both sensitive to the environment and in line with any legal or regulatory compliance obligations that apply.

All of these considerations may be formalized by an organization in terms of an IT equipment disposal policy — a document setting out the objectives and obligations of the enterprise as they relate to the management and disposition of IT infrastructure.

There are several IT equipment disposal policy template resources available online to assist organizations in drafting such documents.

Any or all of this information is becoming a prime target for cybercriminals, identity thieves, industrial saboteurs, and espionage. While data and storage devices are still in use, it’s essential to protect them with physical anti-theft hardware and anti-malware software and observe cybersecurity best practices such as access control, user authentication, and strong password policies.

But what happens when your equipment gets old, is no longer used, gets damaged, or becomes obsolete, and you wish to dispose of it or sell it on to a third party? For equipment that you don’t want to sell, the best and safest option is to destroy your hard drive. For any device you’re looking to sell, your best course of action is to ensure the data on the hard drive is completely erased before releasing the equipment into anyone else’s hands.

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How to Dispose of Old Computers and Company Hardware

Several technologies and methodologies exist for decommissioning IT equipment. And there are a number of issues and considerations that business organizations and other institutions must bear in mind when replacing their old infrastructure.

To begin with, it’s unwise to dispose of old computers without first wiping all storage devices and making the information on them unrecoverable. This typically involves methods to remove data from hard drive and implement hard drive destruction.

Industry-specific rules or regulatory compliance regimes may mandate conditions for IT hardware disposal. Failure to comply with these conditions may result in fines, legal action, and damage to the organization’s reputation.

Obsolete Equipment

So, the hardware disposal process must be conducted in line with all relevant statutes and guidelines.

Corporate Social Responsibility or CSR is now enshrined as formal policy by many enterprises, and the disposition of old IT equipment needs to be consistent with these principles. In the context of IT equipment disposal, giving away obsolete equipment to charity or donating it to other enterprises may have the edge over destruction and dumping.

IT equipment removal can also be undertaken with an eye towards strategic gains. An intelligent attitude to reselling or recycling old equipment can help an enterprise recover some of the costs involved in purchasing new hardware or paying for the environmentally safe disposal of old machines and storage devices.

IT Equipment Recycling and Disposal

IT equipment recycling is the reuse of old computers and electronic devices or the reprocessing of electronic waste to extract or recover materials that can then be used in new electronic products or other manufacturing processes.

It’s possible to recycle old IT equipment to yield materials such as plastics, metals, and glass, which can be used in fabricating electronic devices.

IT hardware recycling helps conserve energy and natural resources, promoting a sustainable and circular economy that’s less reliant on extracting fresh raw materials from the environment. For example, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA), recycling one million cell phones can recover 75 pounds of gold, 772 pounds of silver, 35,000 pounds of copper, and 33 pounds of palladium.

So IT equipment disposal through recycling is a strategy that’s both ecologically sound and potentially lucrative in terms of the valuable materials it can recover.

Like recycling, the disposal of IT equipment through refurbishment and reuse helps cut down on production waste. As an illustration, the Electronics TakeBack Coalition reckons that it takes 1.5 tons of water, 530 pounds of fossil fuel, and 40 pounds of chemicals to manufacture a single computer and monitor.

With 81% of the energy associated with a computer used during production and not during operation, this avenue of IT hardware disposal has clear benefits.

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Electronic Equipment Disposal Service

Electronic waste disposal is a specialized field that requires a certain level of technical expertise and resources to accomplish correctly.

IT Asset Disposition (ITAD) or IT equipment disposal services exist to cover both data centre hardware and endpoint devices such as laptops and mobile phones. A service may specialize in one kind of disposal or both. In all cases, IT equipment disposal services specialize in streamlining the disposition of IT assets and managing e-waste disposal while minimizing costs and maximizing the recovery of financial losses.

Electronic waste recycling is often part of their remit. IT asset disposition and electronic equipment disposal services that offer recycling will use specialist techniques to denature the materials in IT equipment into commodity categories for onward sale, used in other manufacturing processes, or environmentally safe disposal.

IT Equipment Disposal​

As with other methods of IT asset disposition, electronic recycling should be implemented with an eye towards data security. So the first requirement of an IT equipment disposal service is that they have a proven track record of consistently and completely destroying data assets. The company should have a defined process and secure procedures for the disposal of retired and non-functioning IT assets.

To locate an electronic equipment disposal service in your area, a simple web search for “computer disposal near me” may yield useful results.

If your needs are more specific and you require “electronic recycling near me,” you can refine the wording of your search. Alternatively, the US Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) has an Electronics Donation and Recycling web page providing information and guidelines on donating and recycling electronics.

Safe IT Equipment Disposal

For secure disposal of IT equipment, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) recommends that IT equipment should be resistant to keystroke recovery attempts from standard input devices such as a mouse or keyboard and from data scavenging tools. US government classification also categorizes a number of approved methods for sanitizing IT equipment prior to safe disposal. They include:

Deleting Data

Standard "Delete" commands retain recoverable traces of information on your hard drive and other digital storage media. Permanent data deletion for computers begins with the use of disk cleaning or disk wiping software designed to permanently remove information beyond the possibility of recovery. Good disk wiping applications can erase sensitive information on hard drives and securely wipe flash drives and secure digital cards.

Hard or Factory Reset of Smartphones and Tablets

A hard or factory reset of hand-held devices should return them to their original factory settings. For data security, physically remove the memory card and the Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) card if the device has one.

Factory Reset of Digital Cameras and Media Players.

As with tablets and mobile phones, perform a hard or standard factory reset, then physically remove the device's hard drive or memory card.

Sanitization of Printers, Photocopiers, and Other Office Equipment

For the safe disposal of IT equipment in this class, remove any memory cards from the hardware, then perform a full reset as per the manufacturer's instructions.

IT Equipment Disposal Process

Given the diversity of materials involved, a variety of recycling techniques exist. However, most procedures in the computer recycling process follow a set pattern, with common elements that include:

Collection and Transportation

Recycling services or organizations will typically set up specialist bins or take-back booths for the collection of used equipment and waste materials. They will usually provide some form of transport to move the material to recycling facilities and plants.

Shredding and Sorting

Mechanical shredders will break the E-waste down into smaller fragments, which are then primarily sorted by hand or under strict human supervision to separate desired components or material types. Materials are then classified into various categories (Reusable, Core Material, Component, etc.).

Extraction of Dust

E-waste fragments are positioned on a conveyor belt, using a shaking process to smooth out the layers of material. The material is then subjected to further crushing, then suction to extract dust particles which may then be disposed of in an environmentally safe manner.

Magnetic Separation

For ferrous (magnetic) materials, a powerful suspended magnet is used to recycle steel and other magnetically sensitive metals from the e-waste stream.

Water Separation

Glass reclaimed from Cathode Ray Tubes (CRT) typically contains several hazardous substances, including lead. Having removed the metals from CRT shards through magnetic separation, special washing lines are employed to clear phosphors and oxides from the glass. Sorting is then employed to separate non-leaded from leaded gas.

Preparation of Recycled Materials for Sale

At this final stage of the IT asset disposal process, the various materials separated out during the preceding stages are prepared and packaged for onward sale.

Purification of the Waste Stream

This method is used to locate and extract any leftover metals from plastic shards.

What to Look for in an IT Equipment Disposal Service

A comprehensive disposal service will ensure security and sustainability with a disposition program that includes recycling, resale, and the destruction of retired IT assets that are no longer of use.

The resale or remarketing of IT equipment enables organizations to maximize the value of their retired IT assets and reduce their Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) through data sanitization, refurbishment, and reselling of the equipment at market prices. The IT equipment disposal service should achieve this while meeting all relevant security and sustainability requirements.

A leader in the ITAD industry, TechReset goes beyond recycling computers. We fully repurpose units to extend the life of IT equipment beyond its first use. TechReset offers on-site device removal, certified audit reporting, and completely secure data eradication through gold standard data cleanse software or physical hard drive shredding.

In the disposal of electronic waste, we practice the original three Rs of the ITAD industry by removing, reporting on, and repairing equipment — plus, we’ve added a fourth: repurposing what you want to get rid of. TechReset can earn you money for your older computer equipment, helping to offset the cost of new hardware.