Partnering with an e-cycler will benefit your IT consultancy

If your IT consultancy doesn't recycle and properly dispose of old and discarded hardware, Erik Eckel outlines three reasons why you need to start.

 New server deploys, callbacks, SAAS and MSP models, vendor relationships... the list of topics competing for an IT consultant's attention is seemingly limitless. One issue that is often overlooked is technology waste.

According to the National Safety Council, only 11 percent of computers are recycled. It's a particularly noxious problem, as the millions of computers dumped in landfills every year leak 700 poisonous chemicals. But most businesses don't necessarily go out of their way to recycle equipment just because it's the right thing to do; businesses usually change their behavior only when incented to do so.

If your IT consultancy isn't already recycling and properly disposing of all of its discarded hardware and that of clients, here are three reasons you need to begin doing so this week.

Federal regulations require recycling computer equipment

Federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations dictate that businesses dumping more than 220 pounds (100 kilograms) of electronic waste that test hazardous (which is the case with CRTs) a month must recycle that equipment -- that's just a few PCs and monitors a month. If your consultancy discards even that small amount of equipment monthly, it exceeds the "small quantity universal waste handler exemption" and must recycle the equipment; businesses that do not follow these regulations may face penalties.

Recycling generates revenue

Any time your IT consultancy has an opportunity to stop by a client location, it's a chance to strengthen the relationship; this is true whether a technician is just touching base to ensure all is well or he's picking up old equipment for recycling. The additional goodwill and resulting ancillary projects ultimately generate new revenue. While making on-site client visits to pick up old equipment for proper disposal, I've seen clients order new systems, ask technicians to perform a new service, or request new projects.

Recycling is a great marketing message

Local media outlets, including local business publications, are always looking for feel-good stories. An IT consultancy that's willing to dispose of unwanted computer equipment, even for non-customers, is a good story. A business that is willing to give back to the community -- in this case, sacrificing time to ensure old computers are properly recycled -- can find it favor, too, with local government agencies. By working with local officials and distributing a single news release, your consultancy can position itself as a local IT provider that cares about the community.

Best of all, there's no downside. By ensuring old equipment is properly recycled (which you should be doing anyway), your firm helps prevent hundreds of known chemicals from tainting the environment. And, if you maintain a storefront location, you'll get more traffic to your business.

How to start?

My consultancy works with two organizations to properly recycle used computer equipment.

One is a business that stops by our office, at no charge, to pick up old, discarded systems. The company harvests the parts and builds or repairs newly functioning units, while properly disposing of any remaining components.

The second entity we work with is the local government in Louisville, KY. The city created a CyberCycle initiative that accepts old technology equipment as waste. We simply drop off old computers, monitors, printers, keyboards, and other peripherals at the city's collection site. On those occasions when we're charged for waste disposal, we bill it back to the client at cost.

To learn more about the federal government's efforts, you can visit the GAO Web site. To learn about recycling opportunities in your area, visit the EPA's Web site.

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