When it’s time to move office locations, finding smart ways to dispose of old office furniture, computers, and other office electronics can prove to be a logistical mess. This can be especially true if you don’t want to pay to have your old stuff packed up and moved or you plan on getting new computer equipment and new furniture delivery and installation at your new office.
However, if you do it right, disposing of old office furniture and computers can end up being a stress-free experience. For part two, we talk about the four steps involved in properly disposing of old office computers and electronics. Make sure you backtrack to part one for tips on disposing of old office furniture.
Step 1: Make a Complete Inventory of Your Company’s Computers and Electronics
Similar to the process for disposing of old office furniture, the first step in properly ridding your company of old computers and electronics prior to a commercial move is to make a comprehensive inventory of what you’ve got, what you’re taking with you, and what you’d like to dump.
Your list should include everything:
- Computer cables, wires, and other connections
- Cell phones
- Landline phones
- Copiers and printers
- Fax machines
- TVs and DVRs
Just like with office furniture disposal, assign one person to create and record the inventory. For larger companies, use one person per floor to collect the information and another person to combine it all in a spreadsheet or database.
Once you have a complete inventory of all the computers and electronics that you want to get rid of, you’re ready take the next step.
Step 2: Identify Everything on Your Inventory List That Is Hazardous or Data Sensitive
Now that you have your completed inventory, you need to go through it and determine which items are hazardous and which are data sensitive.
We’ll make that first part easy: everything that we outlined on our list in Step 1 contains some amount of toxic materials. Under no circumstances should you throw any of it in the dumpster. Instead, make sure you follow our instructions in Step 4 for responsible disposal.
The second part’s not as easy. Since many of your old computers and electronics contain sensitive business information – especially computer hard drives – you’ll want to wipe your data clean before proceeding to Step 4.
Step 3: Nuke All Your Sensitive Data
Follow these instructions for nuking all the sensitive business data that’s on the computers and electronics you plan on chunking before moving your office:
While you can purchase some fairly inexpensive software that will clean your hard drive, you’re better off not relying on software like this for your data security. After all, a determined bad guy might know ways to get past the basic surface wipe and access remnants of your data that are buried a little deeper.
For the best, most secure destruction of business information, including extremely sensitive data like bank records and passwords, we recommend that you actually take the hard drives out of your computer and physically destroy them before selling, recycling, or donating the rest of the machine.
Printers and Copiers
The guts of printers and copy machines have hard drives that store digital copies of the documents they print. It would be best if all that data were wiped before you dispose of the machines.
While user manuals might have an entry on wiping hard drives and third-party software can be installed that promises to do the same, as with computers you’re better off removing the hard drive and completely destroying it. Unless you’re leasing the machine, of course. In that case, talk to the company you lease from about how your data will be erased.
To wipe a cell phone, consult the owner’s manual or search online for memory-wiping instructions. Then remove the SIM card and destroy it.
Step 4: Responsibly Resell, Return, Recycle, or Donate
Now that all your information is secure, you’re ready to responsibly dispose of your old office computers and electronics by reselling, returning to the manufacturer, recycling, or donating to a charitable organization.
Note: Unlike furniture, computers and electronics don’t hold their value, especially if they become obsolete. In most cases, trying to make money off old office computers and electronics prior to your office move won’t yield the same payday as it might with furniture.
Auction services, auction websites, online classifieds, and resale stores might make sense for disposing of your old computers and electronics. The financial benefit can be high, but there’s usually a higher level of effort required to pull it off successfully.
Some computer and electronics manufacturers and retailers, such as Apple and Best Buy, have programs that take back equipment and recycle it safely. Major cell phone carriers also have similar programs, which either dispose of your phone properly or donate it to charity for you.
For more information on take back programs, visit the Environmental Protection Agency’s website at http://www.epa.gov/epawaste/conserve/materials/ecycling/donate.htm.
Electronics recycling, or e-cycling, has come into its own. There are a lot of companies across the nation that recycle old computers and other electronics for free. Pick-up and drop-off arrangements might be a little tricky, but there are usually plenty of drop-off locations around major cities and you might even be able to schedule a pick up for heavy items.
For more information on e-cycling companies, check out the Better Business Bureau’s website at http://www.bbb.org/us/bbb-accredited-businesses.
For more information on state e-cycling programs, visit the EPA’s website at http://www.epa.gov/osw/conserve/materials/ecycling/live.htm.
You can always skip these other methods and simply donate all your old computers and electronics to a worthy cause. Schools, charities, and community organizations can almost always use your gifts, especially computers, phones, and printers, even if they are a little outdated. Just make sure they’re in working condition when you donate them. And talk to your company’s accounting department, as donations are tax-deductible.
As you can see, there several ways to properly and securely dispose of old office computers and electronics. If you haven’t read it yet, circle back to part one to get some good, and profitable, ideas for disposing of old office furniture.
If you have any advice to add, or stories about how your company handled computer and electronics disposal prior to a move, feel free to let us know.