Notably, legislators have been laying down regulations to rein in e-waste, which gives companies further cause to embrace IT asset recovery practices. The European Union has taken the lead on the federal level with its WEEE (The Waste from Electrical and Electronic Equipment) and RoHS (Restriction of Hazardous Substances) regulations, which require electronic manufacturers to take on the ecologically responsible disposition of the equipment they sell.
Further, the laws require companies to eliminate several environmentally hazardous substances. Moreover, a proposed REACH policy (Registration, Evaluation, and Authorization of Chemicals) would create an even tougher regulatory framework for chemicals if it is passed.
Regulations regarding e-waste disposal have also passed in several states, including California, Washington, Maine, and Maryland, and more are in the works in Massachusetts, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Vermont, and Wisconsin.
Hand in hand with environmental concerns of e-waste disposal are security and privacy issues. "When we got into this business, companies were spending thousands of dollars on firewalls but giving away their PCs," saysIntechra CEO Chip Slack.
Several federal and state regulations now make it the corporate user's responsibility to protect the privacy of customer data at every stage, including during the disposal process. Laws in more than 20 states mandate that all the affected clients and consumers must be notified if any customer information gets outside of the custody or control of a company. Along with proper environmental disposal of systems, many companies, particularly in the financial and health fields, now have to prove that all sensitive customer or patient data is eradicated according to strict state and federal requirements.
What goes around, comes around
Asset recovery providers range in the U.S. from the principal system vendors — including Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Dell, and Sun -- to scores of local specialty providers, to an emerging class of regional, national, and global providers, such as Redemtech, Intechra, TechTurn, and NextPhase.
The latter have been on a buying binge, acquiring local providers to expand their reach. In many cases the major system vendors partner with various local and regional providers to broaden their reach as well, as one of the most expensive parts of the disposal process is transport. For example, Leduc claims that Union Bank's recovery costs were reduced by 25 percent when Intechra opened a facility in Phoenix and PCs no longer had to be shipped from California to Columbus.
The services provided by the hardware vendors differ in subtle ways. IBM and HP run their asset-recovery services as part of their leasing and financing operations. Indeed, leasing can be a good solution for companies that want as little as possible to do with asset recovery, as it places responsibility for environmentally sound disposal with the vendor rather than the lessor, though the lessor retains responsibility for protecting user data. Both vendors can build asset recovery into the leasing cost. Dell's asset recovery services are part of its managed services offering.