Data protection fears undermine IT recycling

Computer Aid survey highlights reuse and recycling concerns

Data protection concerns are preventing many UK companies from disposing of their working computers by sending them for reuse, a new survey from charity Computer Aid International has revealed.

In a survey of 100 senior IT decision makers in UK companies with more than 1,000 employees, researchers Vanson Bourne, on behalf of Computer Aid International, found that just 14% of companies send all their working computers for reuse. The remainder sent their equipment to be dismantled and recycled or to lanfill. Legislation around e-waste recommends reuse as the preferred disposal method.

Of the companies that did not opt for reuse - through a charity such as Computer Aid International for example, 63% cited data protection concerns, 53% blamed cost, while 24% said that contractual obligations to a leasing company prevented them from choosing reuse.

However, 83% of these respondents said that they wanted to reuse working equipment if data protection and cost issues were addressed.

Of those recycling IT equipment, 28% of companies recycled all of their IT, and 41% recycling more than half.

The survey found that companies dispose an average of 542 computers a year, with companies replacing their base units (one third of respondents) and monitors (20%) every three years.

While most companies (83%) said they were compliant with the WEEE [Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment] Directive, which aims to reduce the volume of e-waste generated, Computer Aid found it worrying that 13% had no awareness of the legislation.

In addition, only 65% were confident that their unwanted IT was not being sent to landfill.

Anja Ffrench, director of communications at Computer Aid, said: "It is extremely worrying that many of the UK's largest companies are not able to guarantee that their equipment is not illegally dumped in landfill. Companies must use disposal providers that can track exactly where all their equipment is sent to so as to avoid the devastating impact on health and environment that e-waste can cause.

"Moreover, policies need to be put in place to ensure more reuse of working equipment. Disposing of PCs after four years is a huge waste of resources, since most computers will last for at least double this time. We hope that this research will encourage companies to improve their IT disposal procedures."

The Royal Mail recently donated 3,000 PCs and laptops to Computer Aid for reuse in Africa and Latin America, as part of the organisation's ongoing refresh programme.

This story, "Data protection fears undermine IT recycling" was originally published by Computerworld UK.

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