Pandemic puts IT disposal practices under the spotlight
One positive outcome of the coronavirus pandemic is renewed focus on the problem of e-waste caused by the rush to equip workers with laptops prior to the first lockdown and concern over the data security implications of home working.
In a recent survey by data erasure specialist Blancco Technology Group, 47% of large global enterprises said they had created new e-waste policy compliance roles specifically to deal with e-waste issues generated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Blancco’s study, The Rising Tide of E-waste, reveals that nearly all enterprises (97%) have had to purchase laptops to enable employees to work from home, with 75% buying brand new devices.
The report also highlights unease around the risk to data security that home working entails, with 78% of respondents agreeing with the statement ‘COVID-19 caused unnecessary short-term investment in technology, which will leave us at risk with data being stored on a wide range of devices’.
Commenting on the findings, Alan Bentley, President of Global Strategy at Blancco, said: “The flood of technology investment that followed the beginning of the pandemic has created clear issues for both e-waste and secure data management. The switch to remote work spurred a wave of new device purchases, but these new, widely distributed devices have left enterprises feeling vulnerable.”
Just 44% of enterprises surveyed by Blancco have a policy for end-of-life device management; 35% physically destroy old equipment on the assumption that it is better for the environment.
When asked what would happen to their newly purchased devices when they were no longer required for remote work, 28% of enterprise respondents said they would be erased and resold; 27% said they would be erased to be reused internally; 12% said they would be erased and recycled; and 9% said they would be sent to an ITAD (IT asset disposal) facility.
With many workers planning to keep working from home in the future, the switch to laptops might be a long-lasting change, raising the question of what will happen to organisations’ old desktop PCs.
According to research by technology lifecycle management provider 3 Step IT, 34% of office desktop PCs were ‘furloughed’ in the first lockdown, with 20% expected to remain unused for at least the next 12 months as organisations embrace flexible working and/or make redundancies.
Throw in IT equipment from failed businesses and there’s clearly a great deal of redundant tech out there, much of it gathering dust in store-rooms and dark corners. Some will end up as e-waste. Last year alone, 53.6 million metric tonnes of waste electrical equipment was generated globally, according to the 2020 UN Global E-waste Monitor. This, says 3 Step IT, is like throwing away 1,000 laptops every second.
To help organisations dispose of IT responsibly and make money from doing so, it has launched REstepIT, which buys unwanted desktop PCs, laptops, tablets and smartphones, securely wipes them of data, refurbishes them and then sells them on, extending their useful life, whilst also providing a source of affordable devices for organisations with limited budgets, such as charities, schools and small businesses.
Last year, 3 Step IT set up a joint venture with BNP Paribas Leasing Solutions for organisations that want to adopt a more strategic approach to IT procurement and disposal. Now being rolled out across Europe, BNP Paribas 3 Step IT offers a Technology Lifecycle Management solution that enables IT managers in the public sector, enterprises and medium-sized businesses to acquire, manage, refresh and dispose of business technology in a sustainable manner. The asset management system at its core gives IT managers control of all IT devices on the company network, with real-time insights into device health and reporting by user, cost centre, product group and location. Obsolete and end-of-lease devices are refurbished and given a second life, which, according to BNP Paribas 3 Step IT, helps customers slash their electronic waste by 50% and cut CO2 emissions by 36%.
ICT solutions provider Stone Group also favours a lifecycle management approach. Its Stone 360 app helps organisations manage laptops, desktops, monitors, printers, servers and other peripherals throughout their lifecycle, from purchase to end of life. Customers can use the free app to arrange collection of redundant IT equipment for secure recycling at Stone’s fully accredited ITAD facility in Staffordshire, manage rebates on their old IT assets and collect points that can be used to purchase new or refurbished IT. Stone has pledged to plant a tree for every 200 items recycled by customers.
Another supplier urging customers to adopt more sustainable IT disposal practices is pure technology group (PTG). It has just set up a closed-loop IT refurbishment service, zeroC, in partnership with IT asset recovery specialist S2S, that organisations can use to dispose of used equipment responsibly and save money by buying refurbished devices. PTG claims that refurbishing and buying a laptop through the scheme will save the equivalent of 250kg of CO2 and will see corporations spend, on average, 50% less than they would if purchasing a brand-new product.