3 min read

High tech junk poses huge security risk

National solution provider plans to pay enterprises money for their old hardware

As Apple unleashes yet another version of iPhone on the world this week, owners of the last model are no doubt already wondering what to do with their current handset.

But what happens when an entire company or organization ditches some of its hardware to move on to an upgrade? Green4Good is vying to be an alternative to the dumpster or, more often than not, that dusty storage closet your IT manager has stuffed from floor to ceiling with obsolete technology.

“Companies historically haven’t known, really, what to do so they’ve been storing these assets in closets or warehouses,” says Steve Glover, a senior vice-president at Compugen Finance Inc., an arm of Richmond Hill, Ont.’s Compugen that launched Green4Good two years ago.

Why are companies stockpiling all that junk instead of donating or recycling it? Glover has several theories.

“(Companies’) highest concern is security. The next is the environment, not wanting (hardware) to go to Third World countries and all the horror there,” he says, referring to reports of unprotected workers overseas being exposed to lead and other toxins while dismantling old devices for recycling. “The next factor is cost. Companies have been paying others to take the assets away and recycle them for a fee.”

Green4Good reverses that by actually buying old hardware from companies (that’s right, they pay you for the privilege of hauling away your IT junk), then refurbishes and resells it. Who buys the refurbished stuff? Schools and school boards are big resale customers of the program.

“It costs about a third of the cost of new (stuff),” Glover says. “There’s a huge market there. Also SMBs. Staples sells our refurbished computers online and we now have an agreement with Best Buy for the same thing.”

The proceeds from reselling those refurbished goods go to charity, either one of 32 that Green4Good already works with or one chosen by the organization or company that Green4Good bought the tech trash from originally.

According to Green4Good, between May 2011 and May 2012 the program raised over $350,000 for charities, diverted 45,000 IT items from the dump, and saved companies over $1 million in costs related to disposing of old technology.

So Green4Good takes care of the cost concern by paying companies for their old IT. It also tackles the security issue.

“Items get put up on a bench and a detailed audit and test is done to ensure everything’s functioning properly. Then it’s data wiped by Department of Defence standards – we provide a certificate of evidence of the data wipe – then polished up like new and put in a box,” Glover says.

Green4Good targets corporations and government departments rather than the consumer market, aiming to buy used IT from organizations with 500 seats or more. TD Bank is its largest participant right now, though Glover adds that HP is a major partner as well.

Compugen has picked up several awards for Green4Good, including a 2010 CDN Channel Elite Award for Best Green IT program, a 2011 HP Americas Partner Award for Ecosystem Preservation, and Sustainable Partner of the Year at the 2011 Microsoft Partner Network IMPACT Awards (Green4Good is a Microsoft designated refurbisher so all its reconditioned goods get upgraded with Microsoft OS).

The first seismic shift in how to deal with old technology has already occurred: don’t dump it, recycle it. Now Green4Good hopes to shift it further yet again: don’t just recycle it, reuse it.

“It’s always referred to as ‘end of life.’ We’re calling it ‘end of first life.’ We can find a secondary life for this equipment. We’ll evaluate what you have and if we can find value and resell it, we’ll pay you for it,” Glover says.

Green4Good seems to work like such a well-oiled machine that it begs the question of why more players in the channel ecosystem aren’t offering the same service. Glover provides a reality check for anyone thinking it’s easy for channel partners to do.

“The problem is the costs of entry and having a facility,” he says. “A lot of (companies) outsource this to the distribution channel. This is a standalone entity. And you need to have the capability to find value in just about every (used) asset type. It’s very difficult to have a seasoned sales force that can find value in every asset.”

Glover’s team is doing a bang-up job of that: he says 92 per cent of what Green4Good acquires is suitable for eventual resale. The rest, mainly due to old age or poor condition, goes to eCycle Solutions for recycling. So far over 160,000 computers have been diverted from landfills under the program since it started.

Glover is now trying to find an ISP to back his new plan (modeled partly after the Connect2Compete program in the U.S.) to provide disadvantaged families in Canada with low-cost Internet service along with refurbished computers. Makes sense. In this day of uber connectivity, what good is that green, refurbished computer without the Internet?