Free Computer Recycling? Run Away!

Free Computer Recycling? Run Away!

By Carol Baroudi
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Use caution in IT asset disposition, "free" often has a cost. @Carol_Baroudi @ArrowGlobal #ITAD

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Carol Baroudi works for Arrow’s Value Recovery business, promoting sustainability awareness and action. Her particular focus is electronics at their end-of-life stage, and everything connected.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015 - 3:35pm

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Ads for “free computer recycling” make my skin crawl. Free, of course, sounds good to most people. But as with most “free” offers, there’s a catch.

The catch in this case might not be obvious to the office or facility manager charged with simply getting rid of everything. Office moves happen, and the logistics and organizational details may well fall to someone with little or no background in IT or IT asset disposition. And, unbeknownst to many, a simple office move may result in significant risk to the organization.

When companies move or simply close a facility, they often uncover a lot of stuff nobody wants. Many organizations have closets – sometimes warehouses – full of obsolete or broken technology devices. The order to vacate makes this somebody’s problem.

So the move manager pays somebody – anybody – to take it away. Now! The problem is that if you don’t pay for properly documented disposal, the disposal firm is likely maximizing its profit by dumping your old IT devices with a third-party scrap business that does little or no processing. So even if your closets are empty, your problems have only just begun.

First, let’s worry about all the data you just dropped into unscrupulous hands. Even if the device is broken and you can’t immediately read the data, that doesn’t mean the data can’t be accessed. If your financial records or customer information was printed on paper, would you casually give those files to a stranger who might sell it? Of course not. But that’s what you just did when you dumped your old electronics. When you offload your IT, you really need to work with a professional contractor to make sure the data is truly eradicated – not just erased.

Another worry has to do with your brand. Often equipment can be traced to its owner, so wherever the equipment winds up, unless you’ve been very diligent about it, it may well be traced to you. If you simply hand it over “for free,” whether it’s found in a landfill (where electronics are banned), or online for sale (complete with your data), or shipped abroad (with your data, and where children often work at electronics dumps), your company could be exposed for dumping e-waste, and your brand will be at risk.

Properly handling electronics at their end of life also costs money. Paying workers a livable wage, protecting workers with health and safety measures, complying with industry standards to ensure proper operations – all these things cost money. So if you’re not paying for these services, a safe assumption is that you’re not getting these services. And you may be violating your own company’s code of conduct and agreements with your own workforce.

None of this sounds free to me.

Arrow’s Value Recovery business can help you with proper IT asset disposition, and protect your data and your brand with the best possible environmental outcomes. Questions? Drop me a line at

Carol Baroudi works for Arrow’s Value Recovery business, promoting sustainability awareness and action. She is the lead author of Green IT For Dummies. Her particular focus is on electronics at the IT asset disposition stage, e-waste, and everything connected. Follow her on Twitter @carol_baroudi and connect with her on LinkedIn at