Everyone's a winner

Changes in legislation are compelling companies to recycle redundant IT equipment, but, for many, security concerns remain. Peter McCrum calms industry's fears

More and more businesses upgrading IT resources are discovering that they are no longer faced with the issue of data security when deciding to recycle redundant equipment. While new legislation is driving the recovery and reuse of computing equipment forward, more secure data deletion technology is making increasing numbers of businesses more comfortable with the idea.

Recycling fulfils a number of corporate objectives - financial prudence, data security, compliance with ISO 14001 or EMAS certification and corporate environmental policies. It also improves companies' corporate profile and can help disadvantaged communities both nationally and abroad. And now, concerns about confidentiality can be addressed by recycling providers.

The Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) and Restriction of Use of Certain Hazardous Substances (RoHS) directives prohibit used IT equipment from being dumped in landfill sites, denying companies the dubious option of simply chucking old kit away. Today, to have old PCs removed and disposed of in a proscribed and licensed manner has become expensive, particularly if you have a large numbers of computers and servers to get rid of.

A complete service

Geoff Corani director of IT equipment recycling specialist RecommIT, says: "Previously a lot of our customers would hire a skip and the equipment would be taken away and buried somewhere. Of course they can't do that now, so people are extremely pleased to see us." RecommIT provides a complete service for its customers: taking computers off the desk, assuming liability for them, and taking responsibility for data removal and the recycling process.

Secure data destruction

Data security is a crucial aspect in ensuring potential suppliers of used equipment are confident that sensitive information will be completely deleted. Recyclers are now able to reassure their clients with certificates confirming the destruction of all data. That RecommIT is used by the Ministry of Defence to recycle and refurbish IT equipment shows how far the technology has come.

Security concerns dictate that data removal must be both secure and absolute. Data removal tools such as Sanitizer, endorsed by the US Department of Defence, and a UK product called Blanco which is used at GCHQ are now widely available. The systems are fully traceable and record a readable fingerprint that can be inspected to ensure the operation has been successfully completed. RecommIT uses an approved data wiping process and the Communications Electronic Security Group (CESG) provides RecommIT with guidelines on how to wipe data. "In some instances data-wiping software is not sufficiently secure for our clients' requirements, so we will physically destroy circuitboards and hard drives," Corani says. "We put them through a shredder and take them down to 6mm chips. It's not simply a matter of hammering it or drilling a hole it - that does not remove the data, it just makes it harder to retrieve. It's very important that customers know that the data will no longer be accessible."


That the recovery of confidential data from recycled IT equipment is no longer a danger means there is no conceivable reason why companies shouldn't pass their redundant IT equipment on to recycling companies - particularly in the light of the relevant directives and the potential environmental and social gains. And with recyclers offering a service which reduces hassle to zero while allowing companies to reap the reputational and other benefits, and charities redeploying used IT equipment to help the disadvantaged both in the UK and worldwide, the days of dumping old computers into a skip should be over forever.



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