Asset stripping

Hugh Bessant has some advice for schools wanting to dispose of their unwanted or out-of-date IT equipment

Disposing of broken or redundant IT or electrical equipment is a tricky business. You have new kit arriving and limited time to get it all in, tested and working in time for the start of term. But you also need to shift the old stuff out of your way, safely and responsibly. Here are three key areas you need to consider.

Choose a partner 

This is not DIY, however competent you are. Before you even think of recycling you have a legal responsibility to protect your data. And it is no longer just PCs and laptops you have to worry about. Printers, scanners, tablets and fax machines hold some data and wiping the data so that no one can possibly retrieve it is a specialist operation, using software approved by GCHQ no less. This is not a job for Arthur Daley.

A good IT asset disposition (ITAD) partner will make you data safe, which must be your first priority under the Data Protection Act. However, they will also tell you if your redundant equipment has any resale value. Remarketing used equipment is the best environmental option; 80 percent of the damage is done during manufacture so extending lifecycle is always the green option. And if your school can offset some of the costs, all well and good.

Data security is also a great lesson to teach your pupils (and their parents). A good ITAD partner will help you with that and maybe offer a service to the broader school community. 

Be realistic and responsible

If you know your disposal is well-used and fairly old (rule of thumb three years plus), do not expect it to be worth much. There will always be people who offer to collect your old kit for free, but if it is not worth anything, how can they do that? The simple answer is they will cut corners, either with your data or with the recycling process. This is how hundreds of thousands of tons of European waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) ends up in Africa, where it always ends up in landfill, usually being processed by children for pennies.

Responsible ITAD services maintain a zero percent landfill commitment and do not support sending any kit to a country without strong WEEE regulations. By all means donate to charity, but do not send waste to scar the planet. Sell it and give the proceeds if you can, but do not risk your data ending up in the wrong hands before the machine gets buried. Minimal recycling costs are vastly preferable to fines from the Environment Agency or the Information Commissioner’s Office. 

Consider secondhand equipment

This is the greenest option. PAT-tested, secondhand equipment is readily available from reputable suppliers. Think of it as like buying a school minibus. New is expensive, but get one with just a few thousand miles on the clock and it can give you valuable service. Your ITAD partner can help you stretch your budget by helping you access secondhand equipment, saving money for the new stuff you really need. Decent secondhand  laptops cost less than £200, for instance, and a printer might be £50. 

In conclusion

Look for third-party accreditations and partnerships. A good ITAD supplier will be ADISA-certified at the very least. This is the Asset Disposal and Information Security Alliance and its members have to reach reasonable standards assessed through regular spot checks.

You must get paperwork to provide an audit trail of your recycled equipment. If your pupil records do end up on eBay, you need to be able to prove you did things properly and it is the paperwork which will be your saviour. Waste transfer notes, asset lists, certificates of data destruction and remarketing reports must be provided. And if you can, ask to visit your intended partner’s facilities for a risk assessment. You would do it for a school trip and you are going to trust these people with your data. 

Hugh Bessant is commercial manager for eReco, the IT recycling partner of Eco Schools W: www.ereco.co.uk

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