IT staff must play crucial role in stopping tech dumping

There are lots of things that need to change before the dumping of toxic tech waste is stopped, and one of these is the way IT managers and directors handle the disposal of their technology.

Experts say that a lot of big-name companies and public sector departments simply don’t know where their IT waste is ending up, because they don’t audit the process properly. They take too much on trust – they believe the refurbishment or recycling firm when it tells them the waste has been taken care of safely, when really it’s on its way to Ghana. A good proportion – possibly tens of thousands of containers a year – of our waste is being dumped each year in developing countries.

If you have any control over the IT waste disposal process in a company, you can play a crucial role in stopping this. If the altruistic and environmental reasons aren’t enough to convince you, it’s worth remembering that it’s a legal requirement to get proof that your waste was dealt with responsibly.

It’s incredibly easy to check up on your refurbishment firm, as the Environment Agency and Computer Aid International explained to us yesterday. This is a huge problem that needs to be dealt with at the very top: criminals are always going to try and make money by getting IT departments to pay them to remove waste, so the key is to make it that bit harder for them to do so.

All IT managers need to do is demand proof they are a legitimate firm – apply the same level of rigour to the disposal process as is applied to the procurement process. If UK companies take this one easy step, they will be helping to stop the devastating effects technology waste is having in some parts of the world.

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Here at Morse, we’re seeing that a lot of the problem comes from IT departments, as you say, not actually considering the whole lifecycle of their equipment, or even how to get the most value out of it. Issues with auditing don’t start when it’s time to put equipment out to pasture: too often organisations won’t have taken stock of their exact IT resources and needs at any point, from procurement onwards. As a result, equipment’s value to the company isn’t understood and it will usually just be dumped without consideration rather than taking a more constructive approach. Often old IT equipment still has a value and can be traded in to offset the cost of new equipment. Businesses should be asking their IT suppliers about such schemes, as not only can it help turn rubbish into revenue but it also encourages re-use, which should be a major part of anyone’s green credentials. Although old IT equipment might seem like it has got no value because of its age, it is always worth investigating. For example, an old laptop or server may not hold value as a whole item, but parts of it may be worth trading into the vendor for funds that can be used towards new equipment.
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I agree with Tim that it's the end users responsability to control this process. Within recent weeks the apathy to getting this right within asset owners is now being addressed by the EA (and ICO to a degree). The victory over Plymouth City Council by the EA and fines and costs exceed £10k have perhaps given an indication that asset owners MUST accept their responsibility. Plymouth were using a company, in good faith, who didn't hold the required certifications with the EA to handle waste and as such were operating illegally. Now whether Plymouth knew this and ignored it or simply trusted their supplier(s) remains to be seen but it's clear from the EAs stance that they are now targeting this type of shoddy and "pass the responsibility" type of practice. Asset retirement is straight forward when done correctly!!
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I agree with Tim that it's the end users responsability to control this process. Within recent weeks the apathy to getting this right within asset owners is now being addressed by the EA (and ICO to a degree). The victory over Plymouth City Council by the EA and fines and costs exceed £10k have perhaps given an indication that asset owners MUST accept their responsibility. Plymouth were using a company, in good faith, who didn't hold the required certifications with the EA to handle waste and as such were operating illegally. Now whether Plymouth knew this and ignored it or simply trusted their supplier(s) remains to be seen but it's clear from the EAs stance that they are now targeting this type of shoddy and "pass the responsibility" type of practice. Asset retirement is straight forward when done correctly!!
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