Fine-tuning Enterprise Recycling Programs

Arthur Cole
Slide Show

Do IT People Really Care About Green IT?

Study finds that IT organizations still consider power consumption secondary to performance.

Whenever conversation revolves around IT's environmental responsibility or "greenness," the subject of recycling comes up.

This is natural considering the disposal of spent goods can have as big an impact on energy consumption, carbon emissions and bottom-line costs as any other enterprise activity. However, recycling poses a particular challenge in that it requires a significant effort to ensure that it is being done properly - that is, both cost effectively and in a manner that ensures data security.

Of course, recycling does not necessarily mean transferring old hardware to others. As TopTechNews' Dirk Averesch pointed out recently, there are many ways in which older systems and devices can continue to perform vital functions once full depreciation is reached. Disk drives, for example, can be turned into external backups, while older PCs can be re-used as network drives - just get rid of graphics, sound and other components that consume power.

Regardless of whether a recycled component remains in-house or is sent elsewhere, however, enterprises still need assurance that it has been scrubbed clean of all sensitive data. Fujitsu says it has the answer to "carefree recycling" in the form of the EraseDisk function now available on select Esprimo, LifeBook and Celsius workstations. The system provides for secure, permanent data deletion without having to boot up the operating system and potentially activating file recovery and restore functions.

Recycling also functions best when there are economies of scale. The more participants, the more effective is their collective action. That's part of the reason the federal government, the single largest IT consumer in the world, is stepping up with a program to recycle old equipment. This can be a fairly significant contribution over the next few years as the government seeks to replace aging devices with new, more energy-efficient ones. Under the National Strategy for Electronics Stewardship, federal agencies across the board are to devise means to either reuse, recycle or responsibly dispose of e-waste.

The key word in all of this, for government and private enterprise alike, is "responsibly." How are we to determine whether or not others are being responsible once the device leaves our control? But in a case in which life imitates art, New York's Museum of Modern Art, in conjunction with MIT, has opened a new exhibit designed to highlight the migration of e-waste once it hits the disposal chain. The program uses select desktops, laptops and other gear outfitted with tracking devices to show where they end up - whether a recycling plant in the U.S. or a library in Kenya. The data is incorporated into a visual display called BakTalk aimed at highlighting the relationships between humans and their gadgets, and already it has highlighted a number of deficiencies in the current recycling process.

Recycling may strike some as beyond the scope of the enterprise mandate. If someone wants to repurpose old equipment for their own needs, let them. However, aside from the fact that spent gear can still contain valuable data unless it is utterly destroyed, there is the fact that recycling produces a substantial amount of goodwill in the public.

And having people look kindly on your business produces dividends that are way more valuable than surplus hardware.

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