Wise use means an end to equipment dumping, says Wisetek’s Higgins

Mike Higgins, Wisetek
Mike Higgins, Wisetek

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20 June 2016 | 0

“There’s quite a murky underworld of e-waste processing out there,” said Mike Higgins, chief sales and marketing officer of Wistek.

Wise words. And there are multiple reasons why, including data security, effective use of resources and compliance with the EU’s waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) directive. Despite this, a significant portion of e-waste simply disappears — or at least appears to.

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“I met with some customers and asked them: ‘Do you know fully what happens with your old IT equipment after it leaves your facility, your data centre?’ In most cases there were no disciplines in place to determine its destination, reuse or how the waste element is treated.”

This is troubling from a corporate social responsibility (CSR) perspective. Ireland is among the leading EU countries for WEEE reporting, even though we only know where 50% of e-waste goes.

“What is happening to the other 50% that is unreported,” said Higgins.

The likelihood is that, without corporate policies in place to ensure that all used equipment’s downstream processing is fully reported on, then this material will form part of the 50% that no-one knows about. This undocumented flow of used equipment causes environmental concerns, as it may end up in unscrupulous hands where their crude recycling methods cause severe harm to human health, the environment and poses a severe data security threat.

“Data security is right at the top of the pyramid of concerns. There are some very poor practices around that. People often misguidedly think ‘I’d better keep data-carrying devices’, and they just store it in warehouses. That’s the worst thing to do. [After a while] You don’t have accurate records of what’s in there and therefore what may be missing.

“Data-carrying devices needs to be either erased or shredded on site to meet the highest military or government standards; as soon as they are no longer in use and evidential records should be maintained. We can do both for our customers, even providing video evidence of data destruction,” said Higgins.

The traditional lack of corporate focus on used IT equipment disposal is set to change in-line with movement toward a ‘circular economy’, where waste is minimised and value is maximised.

“The past linear economic model of ‘mining raw materials, make, use, dispose’ has gone in favour of the circular economy model, where re-use is the financial and environmental priority and recycling back into raw materials is almost the last resort,” he said.

Resultantly, Wisetek takes in equipment, servers, storage and switches, and repurposes them as a priority, delivering the highest financial returns to their customers and CSR reporting, evidencing that their used equipment has been processed to the highest data security and environmental standards.

“Moore’s law applies primarily to the processor and possibly the storage drive technologies within enterprise systems, but the majority of other components are still perfectly good [so] what we do is dissemble these systems using ‘Lean Sigma’ quality disciplines in high-tech manufacturing facilities for reuse either in new systems or as component parts for spares inventories, and so on.”

The repurposed equipment can be re-used by the customer or, if requested, sold onto the market. In both cases the result is lowered embodied energy and a full track-and-trace report that can be used in corporate social responsibility reports.

EU regulations now demand 45% of waste by weight is reclaimed, up from 35% last year. By 2019 the figure will be 85%.

For Higgins, building new from old is part of a move away from big established brand systems.

“The really big guys in datacentres are now commissioning their own unbranded equipment, that now makes them [the datacentre] the ‘principal producer’ so they effectively incur a regulatory WEEE liability around used equipment,” he said.

With data centres becoming a major industry sector in Ireland, Wisetek clearly spies a growth area.

“We never see anything as waste, we see it as component flow. We put it though our process and dismantle it and rebuild the new technology back into the system. There’s an enormous saving,” said Higgins.

 

Mike Higgins is chief sales and marketing officer for Wistek

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