Green IT and Sustainability Research (GITS Research) has been researching current and best practices in IT Asset Disposition or ITAD. Many followers at and participated in this study to do their part for green IT.

Here are the early findings based on the 175 survey responses to date, as a precursor to the full report. The final report will be based on the end-user survey and interviews with leading vendors in the ITAD industry. The end-user survey targeted CIOs and IT Asset Managers in North America and Europe.

The full report is scheduled to publish in November 2010.

Why Is IT Asset Disposition (ITAD) Important?

The proliferation of IT hardware assets in business environments during the past twenty years has created a plethora of end-of-life hardware assets, specifically hundreds of millions of desktop and server computers. The disposal of hardware assets or ‘e-waste’ also includes displays, keyboards, storage devices, networking equipment, printers, copiers, televisions, cell phones, and consumer electronics. The proper disposal of e-waste was largely ignored in the 1990s, during which many businesses simply disposed of hardware in dumpsters and did not formally address the security exposure of the business data contained on these assets.

E-waste contains a broad range of toxic material and compounds that have created environmental and health hazards worldwide. IT waste becomes toxic waste.

E-waste toxins include:

  • Mercury
  • Lead
  • Cadmium
  • Arsenic
  • beryllium
  • brominated flame retardants

When burned, the toxins become even more dangerous in the form of dioxins and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (Source:

During the past five to ten years, the environmental concerns of ITAD have been increasingly exposed, but many businesses are not aware of the extent of the global impact of the environmental and health hazards.

Business Risk: Environmental, Data and Brand

Many businesses are not fully aware of the environmental compliance requirements regarding the disposal of IT assets. As shown below, organizations are much more aware of data privacy regulations than environmental regulations, pointing to a gap in awareness and education. Environmental concerns are gaining more visibility and proper ITAD addresses both environmental and data security concerns.

Source: GITS Research

Source: GITS Research

The data-security risk that businesses face is twofold. First, confidential data can end up in the wrong hands and second, business data is subject to regulatory compliance in United States and worldwide. While not all data is subject to data-privacy regulations, the release of confidential data can create a variety of dire competitive and customer consequences. As a result, businesses are faced with significant brand risk based on a combination of environmental and data-security consequences of improper disposal of IT assets.

What is the state of the industry?

Here is what end-users say they do with their unwanted IT assets:

Source: GITS Research

As we will detail in the full report, many of these options overlap. For example, using an established and reputable ITAD provider can enable an organization to donate unwanted assets, sell assets that have recoverable value in the market, and even refurbish and redeploy them within the organization, with the burden of fulfilling the various disposition models falling on the ITAD provider.

Representative of the significant educational and awareness challenge, the survey response indicates that 10.3% of organizations admit to throwing IT assets in the trash and 25.7% recycle IT assets through their local municipal waste disposal. Throwing e-waste in the trash creates an immediate and volatile environmental and health hazard locally and downstream. And while your municipal waste disposal may have a program to accept e-waste, these local programs lack control and transparency of the downstream impact of the recycling and handling of the hazardous material and compounds.

What does it mean to be a ‘certified’ recycler?

The ITAD industry has emerged as a prominent and growing IT market segment over the past ten years resulting in a range of established and new ITAD vendors. While country- and regional-based regulation has started to address the ITAD challenge, the regulation largely fails to address the global problem and establish clear standards and expectations for e-waste recycling by ITAD vendors.

As a result, the e-Stewards Initiative has emerged as the leading global standard and vendor certification program for e-waste recyclers. The e-Stewards Initiative is a project of the Basel Action Network (BAN).

The e-Steward standard calls for: recyclers to eliminate exports of hazardous e-wastes to developing countries, to halt the dumping of such wastes in municipal landfills or incinerators, and to cease the use of captive prison populations to manage toxic e-wastes. It also calls for strict protection of customer’s private data and occupational health safeguards to ensure that workers in recycling plants are not exposed to toxic dusts and fumes (Source:

As a preliminary step to full certification, the e-Steward program for recyclers requires an internal review by BAN and independent auditors to qualify recycling locations. Once locations are qualified recycling locations, the recycler is pledged to complete full certification by September 2011.

Join the study today!

We encourage your participation in the study by taking our survey of end-user businesses and organizations. In return for your participation, you will receive a complimentary copy of the study results.

The survey is available at

We are also looking to interview businesses and organizations on their ITAD programs to highlight success stories for inclusion in our global study.

Join our LinkedIn group Green IT and Sustainability Research and jump into the conversation.

Thank You!

Bill Lesieur

GITS Research

Green IT and Sustainability Research

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