Server Recycling: Pros, Cons, Options, and Things to Keep in Mind
The Environment and Server Recycling
Currently 25 states have government regulations for e-waste. Servers are classified as an environmental hazard under this legislation due to the PCB boards that contain polychlorinated biphenyl. The good news is that consumers love greener companies. When most people think of being “green,” they think of recycling. However, the most beneficial option for maintaining the environment is actually to reuse, not recycle. While recycling is still better than chucking servers in a landfill to produce the next hulk or something, it is still not ideal.
Recycling produces its own waste, uses energy, and involve costs.
Reusing on the other hand requires much less labor and also helps reduce the need for manufacturing new servers.
Repurpose or Reuse instead of Recycling
As a result of these benefits, when possible look for other areas within your company to maximize the life of the IT assets. Could you use the old servers as a backup for when your newer servers need an update? Could you store lower priority archival data on them?
There is one potential exception to the benefits of reuse however. If the equipment will be used for energy intensive purposes or constant workloads, repurposing old equipment may be a poor choice. Newer equipment can be significantly more energy efficient for these tasks, which makes reusing the leftover servers less ideal from an environmental standpoint.
Server Donation for Tax Writeoffs
Another avenue to add life to your old servers is through donation. While the sale of heavily depreciated assets can be harsh on the bottom line, donating those assets leaves you with a significant tax writeoff which may be more beneficial than selling the servers. Many ITAD companies can help facilitate the logistics of donating IT assets, though a fee is traditionally collected for the services.
Server Resale or remarketing can be an appealing option when your servers are still valuable. For just a few servers, it is viable to sell the servers yourself online, though the logistics can be time consuming. If you’re planning to remarket servers yourself, refer to our guide. For a bulk quantity of servers, it’s simply not viable for most companies to try and liquidate them in house without burying their IT department with work. In these cases, relying on an ITAD company for data center liquidation services or data center decommissioning is your natural choice.
Server Recycling: the End of the Line
So you’ve entertained the idea of repurposing servers, donating them, or reselling them through the secondary market. After all that, server recycling is your final choice. When choosing a server recycling service, it’s important to keep a couple things in mind. The first one is to ensure your data security.
We covered data security extensively in another blog post on proper data security. For server recycling specifically, do your due diligence with regard to erasing your data before handing it off to a recycler. Many of the better recyclers will be able to provide data erasure services on site so that none of your sensitive data leaves your location.
Server Recycling Downstream
Recycling doesn’t always mean recycling: it’s estimated that 50-80% of “recycled” electronics don’t actually end up being recycled, but instead are exported off shore to developing countries. These countries will pay for second-rate IT equipment, so it is a natural decision for many disreputable recyclers to simply sell the material. While reuse is better than recycling over here, when it goes to developing countries without established recycling practices, things get dicey.
In the e-waste locations throughout India, Pakistan, China, and other developing countries, electronics are casually discarded into rivers, burned, tossed in acid baths, or stockpiled. Toxins like cadmium, mercury, and BFRs contained in the products seep out into grass, emit deadly gases for nearby inhabitants to inhale, etc.
To avoid these dangerous effects on the environment and overseas populations, simply verify the downstream processes of the server recycling vendor you decide to commission. If they can’t give you a definitive path for the servers from start to eventual recycling location, they probably don’t even know where their scrap ends up. Choose a vendor that can reassure you that you’re not hurting the environment so that you can honestly tell your customers at the end of the day that you’re a green company.