Environmentally Sustainable IT Definition and Solutions

Environmentally Sustainable IT topics covering definition, objectives, systems and solutions.

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How do I recycle IT equipment?

There are a few different ways to get rid of IT equipment without throwing it in the dumpster.

Most computer equipment manufacturers offer take-back programs through which they assume responsibility for proper disposal. For example, Dell and Sony will take back any of their products for free and Toshiba will take back its laptops. Apple charges a fee, but will waive it if you are purchasing a new product. HP also will charge you, but will give you a credit toward future HP purchases. For a complete list of recycling programs in the U.S., visit the Computer TakeBack Campaign website.

IT departments can also hire a lifecycle asset disposal company to take used equipment off their hands, although not all of these companies have expertise in environmentally safe disposal. "Most of them are very local or regional and often lack the ability to provide in-depth reporting and auditing," says David Daoud, research manager at IDC, so you can't review their performance. He says to pick a company that is well known and has a good track record—not just anyone listed in the local yellow pages. Some companies that offer take-back services also offer data security services to insure that intellectual property and confidential information is removed from the hardware, notes Daoud.

Start now, and you can make a dent in a mountain of electronic trash. Daoud says that in 2006, obsolete desktops, laptops and servers accounted for 18 billion pounds of electronic trash worldwide, but the major companies involved in e-waste recovery (Dell, HP and IBM) recovered only 356 million pounds—about 2 percent.

Only about one-third of all U.S. companies have an IT asset disposal policy, adds Daoud. The rest are either doing nothing or dumping them into municipal landfills. According to National Geographic's The Green Guide, 50 percent to 80 percent of recycled electronics end up in developing nations, where they are disassembled by untrained workers without the proper equipment. This exposes them to toxic substances like mercury, cadmium and lead. If the equipment is left in landfills, those same toxins end up in water sources.

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