How Can I Be Sure My Old IT Equipment is Disposed of Securely and Properly?

By: Derek Rogers

With the rapidly improving and expanding technology of today, people tend to replace their personal computers on a regular basis in order to keep up with the latest advancements. It's extremely important to dispose of old IT equipment securely and properly not only to protect your sensitive information, but to protect the precious environment as well.

In early 2007 the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) regulations came into effect in an attempt to minimise the millions of tonnes of electronic waste, or e-waste as it's often called, that is disposed of each year in just the UK alone. You can read about those laws at the Environment Agency's website.

All computer equipment contains hazardous materials and keeping e-waste out of landfills should be high on the list of priorities of government officials and private citizens everywhere.

Mercury, lead, cadmium and hexavalent chromium, not to mention glass and plastic, all of which have a negative impact on the environment, are just some of what's found lurking inside our computers, monitors, hard drives, circuit boards, printers, scanners, fax machines, and telephones.

Many areas now have recyclers who will take old IT equipment as well as organisations who specialise in disposing of computers and other hardware in an environmentally responsible way. Other places like not-for-profit organisations will dismantle the computers and salvage whatever parts possible or perhaps make repairs and then resell the equipment. Before donating a computer, make it a point to call in advance, especially if the equipment is obsolete or in disrepair, to see if there's a need first.

You can find a list of computer recyclers and refurbishers in the UK through a website called ‘Waste Online’

Before using an e-waste disposal service check to see that the company complies with the WEEE regulations and file your written proof that your IT equipment was indeed disposed of securely and properly. And, if you're donating to a charitable organisation, see that the appropriate security measures will be taken with your equipment to prevent unauthorised access, now a legal requirement thanks to the Data Protection Act of 1998.

Also, some computer manufacturers now offer recycling programs at low or no cost and information about these services, if available, can be found on their respective websites. Some computer makers offer credits toward the purchase of new equipment while others provide the service free of charge.

Erasing the Hard Drive Before Getting Rid of Your Computer

Most of us have done banking or ordered something online using our bank accounts or credit cards and many of us keep track of our finances with files saved on our home computers. Be aware that reformatting the computer's hard drive is not enough to ensure that all of your data will really be removed from the machine.

There are software programs available designed specifically for this purpose and there's always the alternative of physically destroying the computer's hard drive making it unreadable, which of course, won't be an option if you're donating the computer to an organisation for some purpose.

However you ultimately decide to dispose of your useless IT equipment it is imperative to be absolutely certain that none of your information will wind up in the hands of a criminal.