Organisations should adopt responsible e-waste disposal strategies, as only 25% of end-of-life information technology (IT) equipment worldwide is being recycled and the value of e-waste is about $62.5-billion a year, says IT equipment disposal and refurbishment company Xperien IT asset disposal expert Bridgette Vermaak on June 5.
"Obsolete equipment can be used to responsibly harvest rare earth elements, precious metals and other natural resources for use in other electronics. According to the World Economic Forum and the United Nations E-waste Coalition, there is more gold in a ton of mobile phones than there is in a ton of gold-bearing ore," she points out.
By 2050, the amount of e-waste is expected to more than double to 120-million tonnes a year, if nothing is done to address this problem.
"Data erasure could be the answer, but only if responsible e-waste disposal is implemented. Organisations need to be specific about how IT hardware is processed when it reaches the end of its life cycle; from mobile phones, to servers and flash drives," says Vermaak.
Many companies dispose of decommissioned hardware by shredding it to ensure stored data is irretrievable. This is done largely to comply with data protection mandates such as the local Protection of Personal Information Act and the European Union General Data Protection Regulation.
Shredding is also mostly used owing to a lack of understanding of other alternatives and a lack of understanding about the environmental impact of physical destruction, explains Vermaak.
Whether organisations choose ongoing use or asset disposal, it is critical to ensure data is erased properly so that data security and privacy is never compromised. Complete and verifiable data erasure complies with data protection and privacy regulations and ensures that company data is never exposed to unauthorised users.
"Data erasure provides a secure and more eco-friendly solution than physically destroying equipment or informal recycling. Erasing and then reallocating devices within the company maximises value from IT purchases. Organisations can even sell out-of-use hardware into the circular economy; older electronics can be erased, refurbished and reused without carrying forward any residual data. They can be sold, reused internally or donated to charities," she says.