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Nearly a Third of SMBs Admit to Tossing IT Hardware Into Landfills

July 2023 by Capterra & Gartner

As growing businesses rush to upgrade hardware, many are simply throwing computers, routers, and other IT assets into the trash–leading to security and environmental concerns. Capterra’s 2023 IT Management Survey of 500 IT professionals at U.S. small and midsize businesses (SMBs) reveals that nearly a third (29%) use improper IT hardware disposal practices.

SMBs are holding onto aging IT hardware for an average of 2.7 years. The majority of SMBs are disposing of IT assets appropriately through recycling (80%), redeployment (65%), reselling (62%), or donating to charity (54%). However, for the 29% of SMBs throwing old hardware into the garbage, their negligence can be attributed to a rush to procure new technology as they scale their workforce, avoid obsolescence, and keep up with the competition.

To that end, SMBs that improperly dispose of hardware are significantly less likely to have reused older devices (54%) than responsible disposers (69%). Ironically, these SMBs are more likely to voice concerns about environmental impact (55%), compared to those that dispose of IT assets appropriately (38%)—perhaps stemming more from guilt than altruism.

Disorder is the key factor driving improper IT hardware disposition—not cost or the ability to find reputable e-waste vendors. Lack of organization is a challenge for 62% of SMBs inappropriately disposing assets, compared to 42% of responsible disposers. Maintaining a chain of custody, often required by industry regulations, is also more challenging for irresponsible disposers, which aligns with their difficulties with organizing and staging assets.

Beyond environmental impacts, irresponsible disposal of IT assets is also a serious security and legal issue. It’s illegal in some states to throw away certain types of IT equipment, and there are privacy laws (e.g., GDPR) and industry regulations (e.g., HIPAA, GLBA, and PCI-DSS) that require specific handling of sensitive data when decommissioning IT hardware.

"For quickly growing businesses, it’s easy to imagine a scenario where used IT assets begin to build up and, amid competing priorities, a decision is made to take the easy way out," says Zach Capers, senior security analyst at Capterra. "However, there are serious environmental, legal, and regulatory implications of improper IT asset disposal, and businesses should therefore prioritize responsible disposition processes."

To properly dispose of IT assets, businesses should consider hiring an IT asset disposition vendor (ITAD) or a reputable e-waste vendor. Look for established companies with many years in service and check for their compliance with responsible data destruction and e-waste standards. Additionally, businesses should also consider recycling programs by manufacturers or retailers from which they purchased their equipment.

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