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Feature: The Soft Option

With December 2005 bringing yet further delays to the implementation of the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive, many companies are unsure what plans they should have in place and how they will be affected when the directive does come into force. Although the deadline is still unclear, the legislation is inevitable, and people should be preparing now for its implications so they are not caught offguard.

Under the directive, all computers, servers, laptops, printers and scanners will be considered hazardous waste and, as such, will have to be disposed of in an environmentally responsible way. Organisations will also have to prove that disposal has been undertaken by the equipment manufacturer or an approved third party.

As the directive aims to increase the level of WEEE recycling by extending the responsibility of the producer, it is probable that manufacturers will recoup the cost of disposal by increasing the upfront purchase price of their products. However, the manufacturer has the ability to write into contracts that disposal costs will be shared with the customer, so all contracts must be carefully checked to avoid unwanted expenditure.

Despite the significant lead time on the directive and the extension brought by this latest delay, in reality many organisations do not have clear policies and procedures in place to manage the disposal of IT equipment. Unless this is addressed now, the majority of businesses will just stockpile their unwanted hardware.

Businesses are therefore left with two simple choices: either introduce policies and procedures for the correct storage and disposal of IT equipment at the outset or factor in an extra figure for disposal into their forthcoming budgets.

FAST Corporate Services educates end-users on the importance of correct equipment disposal and redeployment of not just hardware but also software, an area which is often neglected. In fact, many organisations are unaware that they can potentially make huge cost savings just by checking what software is already installed on redundant PCs. Can the software be re-used by another member of staff instead of being destroyed? This could save the company money in the long run as it will not need to fork out for an additional piece of software or pay the price for destroying it.

But although some software can be redeployed, businesses must remember that OEM licences must remain on the PC that the software was originally installed on. If in doubt, check the original licence terms and conditions.

When it comes to the actual disposal of computers, make sure they are always correctly formatted or wiped so as not to put the company at risk if sensitive data falls into the wrong hands. Under the Data Protection Act, personal information relating to living individuals must be safeguarded, including data from PCs that are being disposed of. The most effective way of abiding by this law and protecting your sensitive data is to use a data wiper software programme to permanently destroy it.

Although delayed, the WEEE Directive will come into effect eventually and even though compliance with it cannot be achieved until the regulation has been announced, organisations should make sure they are doing everything within their power to help the environment and also to reduce their own costs now.

Businesses need to allocate time to look at the current processes they have in place for equipment disposal and start introducing effective procedures to continue to maximise their investment in hardware and software, until the very end of its life.

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