Every year, millions of tons of electronic waste (e-waste) are thrown into landfills or shipped to developing countries. Not only does this pose a risk to the environment (due to chemicals found in electronics, including lead, mercury, PCBs, etc.), it also runs the risk of data breach. After all, many end-of-life electronic assets still contain sensitive consumer data hidden within. According to Forbes magazine, the average cost of a US data breach in 2018 was $7.9 million.
Most businesses in today’s market recognize the need to be environmentally responsible, and they are certainly mindful of their customers’ needs and expectations when it comes to data security. So how, then, does so much e-waste end up in landfills, and why do data breaches continue to occur? With so much on the line–from hefty fines and crippling lawsuits, to the loss of customers along with a ruined reputation–why the continued disparity between expectations and actualities?
The answer to that question can often be found in the methods used by businesses to dispose of their e-waste. The truth is that most companies don’t process their own e-waste, but instead outsource their ITAD (Information Technology Asset Disposition) needs to an outside vendor. While outsourcing ITAD services is both a great convenience and a near necessity for most companies, the mistake is in thinking that the mere act of using an outside vendor will protect a business from all liability. The alarming number of incidents involving illegal e-waste disposal and export, combined with data breach cases that have the potential to both break the bank and bruise the brand, point to a reality that companies would do well to embrace: Not all vendors are created equal.
It should come as no surprise that the more unsavory side of human nature can and does find its way into the business world. Too many ITAD vendors and electronics recyclers care more about profits than they do ethics or the environment. From improper domestic disposal, to illegal exporting, the result is too often the same: toxins can and do find their way into the soil in which we grow our food, the water we drink, and the air we breathe. When this happens, a price is paid–both in the health of those exposed, and more literally, in the form of costly fines and devastating lawsuits. And while your ITAD vendor and electronics recycler may be held lawfully responsible, remember that often it is the company who originally owned the improperly disposed equipment that faces the most fallout. Whoever said all publicity is good publicity obviously never had to deal with the consequences of choosing the wrong ITAD vendor to dispose of their end-of-life electronics!
So with that being said, how does a business go about choosing an environmentally responsible, ethically-minded ITAD vendor and electronics recycler? There are, of course, the standard measures to look for, from references to reputation, but other factors must be taken into consideration. After all, much is on the line and there are an alarming number of companies looking to get their feet in the door; who knows what they’re tracking in behind them? That’s why it pays to do research when choosing and ITAD vendor and electronics recycler.
First, look for an ITAD vendor and electronics recycler who can manage the complete chain of custody. In other words, a company who can handle everything from picking up the equipment to final disposition. Often times this means also looking for a vendor with a nationwide footprint. This will help in eliminating the risks associated with vendors who outsource various steps in the recycling process.
Next, remember that a truly trustworthy vendor is a certified vendor. Look for an ITAD vendor and electronics recycler who is R2, ISO, and OHSAS certified, as well as ITAR registered and on the GSA schedule. Research and verify that they are truly certified and ask for accompanying documentation and proof of compliance. It would also be wise to confirm that the vendor conducts background checks on its employees and monitors its facilities with surveillance cameras.
Another important factor to consider when choosing an ITAD vendor and electronics recycler is commitment to ethics. Ethically-minded ITAD vendors will adhere to a hierarchy of reuse first, followed by recovery and then recycling. Look for an ITAD vendor and electronics recycler who maintain an asset remarketing department, fully compliant with industry standards and certifications. On top of all of this, an ethically-minded ITAD vendor will look for ways to give back to the community.
Transparency is another factor that sets apart the reputable and reliable ITAD vendor and electronics recycler. A transparent vendor will provide regular asset reports and certificates of recycling/destruction that include weights and serial numbers. Look for a vendor who offers an online client portal where assets can be tracked in real time and work orders can be submitted. Requesting a facilities tour will further reveal a vendor’s willingness to be transparent.
Finally, accept that no e-waste management program is completely devoid of risk; therefore, insurance is a necessity. A certified ITAD vendor and electronics recycler will be required to maintain insurance that covers environmental pollution, liability, transportation, and workers’ compensation. While coverage amounts are formulated on the vendor’s risk assessment, a good ITAD vendor will exceed requirements and maintain a guaranteed closure plan that ensures proper shutdown procedures should the company cease operations.
At this point, it is obvious that choosing an ITAD vendor and electronics recycler requires a great deal of due diligence. Price should never be the only consideration, and it’s worth noting here that vendors who offer free services should be viewed with a skeptical eye. Responsible ITAD vendors and electronic recyclers incur significant costs, which are generally passed along in the form of management fees. This goes back to ethics and transparency. An irresponsible ITAD vendor and electronics recycler can do great damage to your brand and your bottom line, damage that often takes years to undo.
Fortunately, this sort of damage is almost completely avoidable. While your business isn’t likely equipped to handle the workload and challenges involved in managing ITAD services and end-of-life asset disposition, one company is more than prepared to assume that responsibility.
Advanced Technology Recycling (ATR) has been conducting business on a nationwide level for over 25 years and remains focused on sustaining a regional footprint with local governments and businesses as the company continues its nationwide expansion. Eight of ATR’s current nine locations are ITAR registered, on the GSA Schedule, and R2, ISO, and OHSAS certified by an outside auditing body; our Las Vegas facility is currently seeking certification and will be certified within 1 year of opening. ATR maintains Pollution Liability insurance, Data Breach insurance, and Workers’ Health insurance. Additionally, ATR has in place financial guarantees for site closure and clean-up in the unlikely event that it would be required in accordance to state laws.
ATR is committed to providing dependable ITAD services and electronics recycling options that are environmentally sound without compromising secure alternatives.
David Longstreet Regional Account Manager
ATR measures client satisfaction on an individual basis. Every account is assigned a dedicated Account Manager or Business Development Manager who helps develop, implement, and follow through with the client’s custom recycling program. Our goals are simple — establish long-term relationships with our clients while providing a high value of service. On top of this, ATR works within the community to promote and provide environmentally sustainable solutions that will benefit the current generation as well as generations to come.
At Advanced Technology Recycling, we understand how much time and effort it takes to acquire new clients and we work even harder to keep them. That’s why we promise to deliver our services with enthusiasm, integrity, transparency, and a commitment to environmental responsibility.