E-Recycling Options

E-Recycling Options

 

Chris Rother

With technology infrastructure evolving at an ever-increasing pace, tech directors may be left with a warehouse full of decommissioned monitors, mice and hard drives. School districts may want to invest in a program that helps them dispose of old technology safely and efficiently.

With technology infrastructure evolving at an ever-increasing pace, tech directors may be left with a warehouse full of decommissioned monitors, mice and hard drives. School districts may want to invest in a program that helps them dispose of old technology safely and efficiently.

Schools have two options: They can recycle components for reuse or they can e-recycle the entire system. Product age often dictates the decision. With technology older than five years, the district should e-recycle the system. An e-recycling company can sort through components to recycle metal and plastic parts and properly dispose of potentially hazardous components, such as those that contain mercury.

State and local requirements also factor into the decision on surplus IT equipment. Districts may operate on a three-year tech-refresh cycle for high schools, but can redeploy systems in middle or elementary schools to extend their life span.

Regardless of the initial path, at some point every computer’s usefulness comes to an end. Districts can partner with an e-recycler to recycle the system. Schools should find a partner that balances price and service. “A small mom-and-pop shop may appear affordable, but if it doesn’t offer that full range of services, including logistics support and data sanitization, it may not be the best option in the long run,” says Peter Muscanelli, founder and president of the International Association of Electronics Recyclers.

Cost shouldn’t be a factor. E-recyclers will collect most items for free or for a small fee. Monitors, specifically CRTs, are an exception because they are considered hazardous waste. Most companies charge a monitor-disposal fee.

Schools also need to evaluate e-recycling vendors on data sanitization and environmental consciousness. “It’s very difficult for an understaffed IT department to clean several hard drives,” says Muscanelli, who adds that half of the sanitized equipment he sees still has some information remaining on the computers’ hard drives. Instead, schools should look for an e-recycler who adheres to Department of Defense data-destruction standards and provides a certificate of destruction. Schools should ascertain any potential partner’s environmental commitment by asking about the amount of output destined for the landfill; less than 10 percent is a respectable ratio. It’s also a good idea to avoid any e-recycler that sends scrap to other countries. The final measure of a company’s proficiency is ISO 14000 certification, which includes requirements for environmental management systems.

It’s a safe bet that the e-waste issue will grow; however, more companies are making responsible disposal possible, cost-effective and environmentally benign.

Virtual Computing Saves the Day

Like many others, Greenwood (Ind.) Community Schools maintained a hidden room bursting with old keyboards and monitors — until summer 2007, when IT Director Joe Huber learned about NComputing’s virtual computing technology.

NComputing’s virtualization software and hardware tap into the unused capacity of host PCs to simultaneously distribute it among multiple users. Each user’s monitor, keyboard and mouse connect to the shared PC through a small access device. Greenwood Community Schools has installed about 200 units, each powering three monitors at a one-time cost of $72 per seat. “The technology allows us to increase our inventory and extend the life of old monitors,” Huber says. Plus, the district freed up space when it emptied its decommissioned monitor room.

Charitable Computing

Retired computer components of little value to schools may be priceless to others. In many locales, tech directors can find a nonprofit refurbisher (like those listed here) that rebuilds computers and gives them to those in need. ● Indianapolis-based Virtual Scavengers picks up old parts from schools and businesses. Volunteers commit to four days of work sorting parts and then receive a working computer. ● The National Cristina Foundation in Greenwich, Conn., encourages donations of surplus computers and gives them to people with disabilities, students at risk and economically disadvantaged persons. ● The Academy for Career Development upgrades donated computers and supplies them to disadvantaged youth in the Rochester, N.Y., area. ● One of the best ways to connect with a local organization is to surf through the ZIP-code searchable listing of Community Microsoft authorized refurbishers at www.techsoup.org/mar/marList.aspx.

Apr 17 2008

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