Disposing of office computers, printers and copiers the right way not only helps protect the environment, it also thwarts the efforts of data thieves. Hawaii’s BBB details the three steps necessary for small business owners to dispose your office equipment safely and securely.
Electronics contain toxins such as lead, mercury and cadmium that—if merely tossed into a landfill—will eventually leach into nearby soil and water. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 1.84 million tons of TVs, computers, printers, cell phones and other electronics were discarded primarily into landfills in 2007. Only 18 percent of discarded electronics were recycled that year, however, the EPA notes that e-cycling is growing in popularity perhaps due to mandatory programs in states such as Hawaii.
When tossing old electronics, consider both the environmental and data security concerns. Computers, cell phones and copiers not only contain toxic chemicals that can pollute the environment, they also contain a wealth of information that data thieves would love to get their hands on.
BBB recommends taking the following step to ensure that all hazardous and data sensitive office equipment is disposed of the right way: Step 1: Identify hazardous and data-sensitive electronics.
The following office equipment contain toxic materials or sensitive data and should be recycled responsibly and not just tossed into the garbage:
- Computer central processing units (CPU)
- Mobile phones
- Copiers, printers and fax machines
- Monitors, keyboards, speakers and mice
- Landline phones
- Computer cables and wires
- TVs, VCRs, DVRs and stereos
Step 2: Destroy sensitive data.
While most electronics have toxic components, some also contain sensitive business information stored in the product’s hard drive. Ensure that any data has been wiped before getting rid of the following electronics:
- Computers: You can purchase inexpensive software to wipe a computer’s hard drive, but a person so determined could still retrieve the data. If you have sensitive information that you don’t want getting into anyone’s hands, the most secure way of destroying the data is to remove and physically destroy the hard drive.
- Copiers and printers: Internal hard drives save digital copies of the documents processed. Consult the manual to find out how to clear the memory; you can also use third-party software to wipe the hard drive. The most secure way of erasing data is to physically destroy the hard drive. If you are leasing the equipment, ask the company how your data will be erased.
- Mobile phones: Check owner’s manual or search online for directions on how to wipe the phone’s memory. Remove the SIM card if your phone has one.
Step 3: Dispose properly.
Depending on the condition of the item, retailer, manufacturer and Hawaii state laws, following are the main disposal methods to consider:
- Donate: Schools, charities and community organizations can use your electronics as long as they are in proper working condition. Your donation may even be tax deductible.
- Recycle: There are businesses and organizations that break down and recycle old electronics for free. They usually have drop off locations or you may even be able to schedule a pick up if you have many heavy items.
Hawaii state law requires manufacturers of electronics such as computers, printers, monitors and televisions to operate recycling programs, and electronics retailers must provide customers with information on recycling programs offered by manufacturers.
Get details about the Hawaii Electronic Waste and Television Recycling and Recovery Law.
- Return: Manufacturers such as Canon and Apple, and retailers including Best Buy and Costco have “take back” programs to help customers recycle their old products safely and cheaply. Every major cell phone carrier will also take your old cell phone and donate it to a charity or have it disposed of properly.
See the EPA’s list of manufacturer and retailer programs.
- Resell: You may be able to make a little money selling your electronics. Be wary of buyers who overpay or ask you to wire money.
For more small business advice on how to manage data check out BBB’s Data Security—Made Simpler.