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An alternative to selling unwanted IT gear is to take the philanthropic path and donate it to a local school, nonprofit, or charity. It's a great investment in the community, plus there's some financial reward. For example, according to Earth911.com, "the Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997 states that companies that donate personal computers to schools qualify for an enhanced charitable deduction benefit. It also expands tax incentives for private companies that donate computer technology, equipment or software to K-12 classrooms."
Earth911.com points to several sources of additional information and assistance in donating gear to schools and community groups. Among them: the Electronics Industry Alliance, a national trade organization that includes the full spectrum of U.S. electronics product manufacturers. The group maintains a listing of organizations throughout the United States that accept donations of electronics products.
There's also a chance that some of the equipment you find just isn't suited for reuse. In that case, recycling is the ideal, Earth-friendly route. For starters, e-cycling recovers valuable materials, such as metals, copper, and engineered plastics, all of which require considerable energy to process and manufacture. According to the EPA, recycling 1 million desktop computers prevents the release of greenhouse gases equivalent to the annual emissions of more than 17,000 passenger cars.
Additionally, properly recycling old electronics, rather than tossing them in landfills, helps reduce toxic pollution. PCs and monitors, especially old ones, contain a multitude of hazardous substances: lead, which can cause brain and kidney damage in children; mercury, which can cause nervous system and kidney damage; and cadmium, BFRs (brominated flame retardants), and PVC (polyvinyl chloride), which are known to cause health problems like cancer, respiratory illness, and reproductive damage and are able to accumulate in the human body and travel long distances through air and water when not disposed of properly.
Finally, whether you're reselling, donating, or recycling old equipment, data security needs to be a top priority. It's possible that the machines you're disposing of contain sensitive information that can land your organization in a heap of trouble, both with the public and the law, if it falls into the wrong hands. The last thing you want is for proprietary secrets or legally protected client data -- credit card numbers, medical records, Social Security numbers -- to fall into the wrong hands.
Here, you have options. You can wipe the machines in-house using applications such as DBAN (Darik's Boot and Nuke), Active@KillDisk, or BCWipe. Alternatively, you can make sure that the organization you select to buy back or recycle your gear provides a thorough data-wipe service.
Cleaning up your company's IT clutter can indeed by a rewarding endeavor: You can save some money, free up space, reduce your organization's environmental impact, and do some good for your local community. Just be mindful of the potential security pitfalls.