Time to recycle? Featured

7:00pm EDT February 23, 2009

In these uncertain economic times, just about every company in every industry is looking at ways to reduce or eliminate costs. Because of this, more and more companies are running their equipment (computers, printers, etc.) until the very end, squeezing every last bit of life out of those systems to get the most bang for their buck.

This is a perfectly acceptable — and recommended — practice, but companies need to be fully aware of exactly when to dispose of equipment and how to properly do it.

“To optimize the life cycle of your assets, you’ve got to plan and monitor all life cycle costs, including disposal and recycling,” says Gregory G. Lorenzen, the vice president of operations for Pomeroy IT Solutions.

Smart Business spoke with Lorenzen about end-of-life services and what to do with your equipment when it reaches the end of its value.

How do you know equipment has reached the end of its value?

Resources need to be retired from use when they are no longer suitable or compatible to business. You know it’s time to retire a resource when the risk of business activities being disrupted increases and/or when the cost of operating, repairing or running it to enterprise standards increases.

It should be noted, however, that when you retire an asset you’re not just tossing it in the dumpster. First, you need to determine whether or not the asset could be used elsewhere in your company. Even if a computer or system is completely useless to one user, it could be an upgrade to another. You want to get as much value out of your assets while they still have useful lives.

If it is determined that the asset no longer has any use within your enterprise, look to a company like Pomeroy to handle the recovery logistics. That way you can be sure the asset is cataloged, tracked and processed in such as way that eliminates any chain of custody issues with the assets. Essentially, these types of companies act as the service agent and will process the transfer of both brokerage and disposal class materials using systems and bill of material processes that transfer the ownership of these assets to the purchasing party or to the e-waste recycler.

What should you look for in a good asset recovery vendor?

First, make sure they work with reputable and EPA-compliant recyclers in the United States and overseas. You must ensure the asset recovery vendor selected is a trusted agent. A good asset recovery company will completely sanitize and secure your assets, wiping hard drives to Department of Defense standards to ensure no data, intellectual property or business information remains. Select an asset recovery vendor for its transparency, security and record keeping. It should be able to meet your policies and earn your trust through execution and verification.

What can happen if a company doesn’t dispose of equipment properly?

As stated, there are legal concerns in regards to the EPA along with the moral requirements of being good stewards to the planet and its resources. The less we pull from the ground and the more we recycle will benefit not only our generation but many generations to come. Besides the fines you’ll face from EPA violations, you’ll also have the stigma of being a company that infringed EPA rules. In today’s environmentally conscious world, that negative perception can be far worse than any fine.

Also, if you don’t properly dispose of your assets, you risk exposing your company’s sensitive information. A competitor could obtain your critical business information, or you could violate the rules of SOX (Sarbanes-Oxley Act), HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) or Gramm-Leach-Bliley.

So, is proper disposal a legal and regulatory compliance challenge, or is it primarily an ethical dilemma?

Legal compliance is essential, of course, but ethics can have an even greater financial impact on the enterprise, as aging assets can represent financial liabilities.

At this time, legislation is mostly concerned with the disposal of plastic additives and four heavy metals: lead, mercury, cadmium and hexavalent chromium. Broader legislation is expected, as citizens hold governments and enterprises responsible for the cost of pollution and cleaning up the environment. So you’ve got to manage the risk of ecological issues damaging your business reputation, even if a legal case is proven.

Disposal must be a budgeted item, not an unbudgeted contingency. Disposal is increasingly being factored into the cost of acquisitions, with a vendor appointed to manage disposals. You’ll find that your business will need disposal services, and you cannot expect to dispose of assets for free.

Bottom line, when your assets lose their value and can’t be reused or resold, engage an asset recovery provider you trust and build the cost of asset disposal into your project plans and budgets.

GREGORY G. LORENZEN is the vice president of operations for Pomeroy IT Solutions. Reach him at glorenze@pomeroy.com or (800) 846-8727 x1521.