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Share Your Ideas for Minimizing Your Data Center Footprint and Earn 250 THWACK Points!

Level 15

We all love our smartphones, computers, tablets, and gadgets. Some of us wait in long lines the moment the latest tech hits the shelves, while others upgrade when our old devices finally kick the bucket. Either way, we are all inevitably left with outdated tech that we need to discard. The hardware, batteries, cables, and accessories often become burdensome because we are not sure how to recycle this old technology.

Recycling properly can take time that you may not have (we know you’re under pressure to keep processes in your organizations running smoothly), meaning that the environment often takes a backseat as our old tech collects dust in the supply closet. With Earth Day just around the corner, we want to hear a few tips and tricks about how best to recycle or dispose of older hardware in an environmentally friendly way.

Let us know what an IT environmentalist looks like by sharing the best ways to reduce, reuse, and recycle old technology by April 11th and we’ll put 250 THWACK points in your account!

159 Comments
Level 9

Our hardware Vendor EMC who is now Dell provides a safe way to recycle old servers and we feel happy about responsible recycling. We are also actively trying to reduce carbon footprint by moving to solar power in phases

Level 16

While we continue to get better at using less energy and making the physical data centers footprint smaller I'm not sure exactly how our technology gets recycled. Everything goes into an industrial shredder and comes out in little pieces.

A recycle place then picks those up but I don't know what they use them for.

Level 13

How about reusing old keyboards by creating pencil holders

Image result for recycle old it equipment

Level 8

So, one of the companies that I use to work for used Advanced Technology Recycling. Great process, they take the used material away. worked out really well.
www.atrecycle.com

Level 9

For old batteries, keyboards, mic and etc, we have a bin that a recycling company picks up once a month. For larger hardware, like printers, laptop, desktops, cell phones, we have a different bin that gets picked up.One thing that some of the guys in the shop does is take the old hardware and turn it into holders for different tools.

As a manufacturing company, we try to limit our waste and use different companies to help.

Level 16

What do they do with all that stuff?

Level 8

they either re-manufacture the equipment and re-sale it, or the break it down to its base components (plastic, metal, etc...) and then recycle them.

Goodness--the title of this one (Minimizing your data center throughput) doesn't match the request in the text below it (looking for tips & tricks for recycling old data center hardware).

At first glance, I was thinking about how we've reduced the amount of cubic space we need in the data center.  From stand-alone servers to blade centers to UCS chasses to the cloud--we have a much smaller footprint in the data centers than we did ten years ago.

But re-reading and applying the ACTUAL intent makes me stop and think quite a bit.  Some of the things we've done to reduce the impact our data centers have on the world include:

  • Recycling hardware with various vendors.  Some take old gear back in on trade during upgrades, and some resell the old gear, and others break it down for its gold and silver and copper components for recycling.  But in every case, there's no throwing it away.   There IS NO "away", and it's time we all understood it. And this also applies to our daily lives and our home purchases and even the food containers we toss into the garbage instead of separating them for composting and recycling.
  • Buying less hardware.  Our UCS chasses have replaced MANY stand-alone servers, and even the chasses get recycled when we purchase new ones.  When we move enough services to the cloud, the chasses and their power and cooling requirements are gone, with the metal going to recyclers.
  • Leveraging the cloud.  This isn't a perfect solution; it requires someone ELSE to buy the hardware we used to buy.  What will THEY do with it when it breaks or is obsolete?  I'm unsatisfied with this solution, despite its increased efficiencies, because it still has hardware in it, and that hardware eventually must be recycled or discarded.  Worse, it's more vulnerable and less available and slower to access than local hardware in our data centers.  AWS and AZURE and their peers have done us no HA favors.
  • One place I worked gave old PC's and Servers away, but only after removing all identifiers from them.  This is because individuals and companies would take the gear, mine it for its easily-extracted more-valuable parts, and then throw the rest into ditches and streams and rivers.  Then the city or the EPA or the sheriff would find parts with identifiers associated with the original purchasing company, not the "recyclers", and it was responsible for the environmental clean-up.
  • Another company I worked for let employees take broken gear home, rather than having the company pay to have recyclers haul it away.  Some of those employees brought the gear to rural areas, filled it with explosives and had 4th of July parties with it, never cleaning up the printer toner or broken metal, glass, and plastic.  I still run into old lead-based PC monitors and PC towers out in gravel pits, used for target practice by locals.  Talk about short-sighted people, and short-sighted equipment manufacturers!

Imagine:  There is no throwing anything away.   There never was.   It ALL stays in the environment.  It all must be designed for easy reuse and recycling.  It can't keep going into landfills and our water and air.

​The solution is buying less, making do with less, and buying gear (and services, and power, and cooling, etc.) designed to be friendly to drinking water and breathing air, to the lakes and streams and oceans we swim in and take food from.

Efficiency in all things--as long as the definition of efficiency includes environmental impact--is the path to follow to reduce your data centers' impact on the world and improve its green footprint.

Level 8

i've worked at a few places that would let you take home old hardware once it was wiped or virtualized.  it was a super nice way to get a file server or test server at home.  Plus there are ways to set up that old box to donate what processing power it has left and is always a good intro to tech for the kids. 

if all else fails, turn that old tower in to a planter. 

Level 9

We have a hardware vendor that picks up our old monitors/PCs/phones/etc for recycling. We also recently sold used monitors that we were going to recycle back to our users for $10. We ended up being able to re-purpose all of our monitors as opposed to sending them to recycle.

Level 9

We pile stuff up and a recycler comes and gets it, hopefully they deal with it in a responsible way. They do it for free because half the stuff is still very usable, if you want to spend the time to find that half.

Otherwise I like it when a company lets their employees take home the extra stuff that is still decent but they no longer want, but then people have to ruin it by coming back and asking for support on that free item, or complaining that someone else got something better, or whatever, so it leads to no one getting anything.

We are currently starting a laptop refresh, I'm trying to figure out what they are going to do with all the old ones in this round, I wouldn't mind having one of those to use on the side.

I used to do IT support for small businesses. I found old laptops were great for low resource linux firewall / NAT routers. They had an integrated KVM and UPS (if they had battery left). As long as you kept them plugged in to the power and added a second NIC you could install any number of packages and turn them into a NAT Router with DMZ for Web and Mail server. 

Level 12

Currently we collect all our old electronic equipment for disposal inside a warehouse, and due to the company's certification plans we might need to properly dispose them this year. Plan is we are going to employ the services of a government accredited e-waste management company, with ISO 14001 certification. We are also starting to create a program in making sure still-usable equipment like laptops and desktops don't get disposed easily and can still be used by new hires or for other functions.

MVP
MVP

I can't even begin to count the number of IBM thinkpads that I have out there doing just this task.

Level 8

We usually take our oldest and unused stock and electronics to the nearest charity shop that didn't get the last haul, talking to the managers a lot of what we give are good earners for the charities

Level 8

I like to follow the 4 R, Reuse, Renew, Recover, Recycle....

Level 10

Shred the hard disks and send the redundant kit to less fortunate business's in foreign countries, just because we are done with them, doesn't mean they cant be used by others.

Plus if your like where i work, we throw 4-5 year old kit away (through the proper recycle channels of course) but dont have a donation initiative nor can staff take redundant kit home for use.

So theirs 2 ideas

1. Charity

2. Home lab / Personal use

Level 9

After taking precautions for data loss, offer to employees, free cycle etc.

Level 13

All our equipment is given to a third party for secure disposal. As we work for local/central government we have to prove the devices have been securely disposed of.  All Government devices need special disposal as it was bought with Public Money and very often deals with vulnerable people or highly sensitive information.

Level 12

Once equipment is taken out of production, we will do a variety of things. In some cases we will re-use some of the equipment for lower level environments like testing or even our lab environment to allow people to have a place to practice things, learn things, or try out new ideas. Eventually, all equipment is offered up to our internal sales where we allow employees to purchase the older equipment for home or personal use.

Level 12

Our company, IT dept would take care of disposing of old Desktops, Laptops, head sets, etc., as a scrap to a 3rd party. Hence, they would take care of recycling them.

I would suggest, a company which want to recycle their devices, can think in the lines of giving it for nominal prices to the employees, who is willing to use them for another 1 or 2 years. Later they can handover them to a recycle center, when they need to dispose.

Since majority of the companies are moving to cloud, in future, the recycling of old devices, would reduce and this would help environment. Lets reduce the garbage and save Environment .

MVP
MVP

put everything in the same bin and let the bin men sort it out.

when i try to seperate at home I get complaints then they dont take it.

it should be a role in the company to sort it all out need organisation other wise it wont work

Level 11

using solid fuel rockets, we could fire them off into orbit and let them burn up on re-entry.....I'm Canadian it's cold up here.

Level 9

Were I live (Prince Edward Island, Canada) we have an environmental fee that we have to pay on everything electronic, this cost then covers the recycling of the component when it has come to it's end of life.

Level 11

Oddly, In the seventies I saw a short documentary about recycling (when it was a new idea), in the video, sorting WAS part of the recycling centre there was no "pre-sort" process as it was unthinkable to expect the average consumer to do such a thing.  oh well...the good ole days.

MVP
MVP

Donate for a purpose/cause, it might not be feasible to migrate the entire chunk and get it transported. But, in case its possible -> make good use of it and send them across accordingly to places which might require them, we could reuse working parts from the existing servers, stacks , desktops, laptops rebuild the same, we could as well organize a free camp where these parts could be donated for a cause

Level 11

During my time in IT, I have found several ways that help with the life-cycle of old/aging gear.  A lot of this depends largely on what your company will allow you to do with equipment being retired.  Here are some of the ways that I have seen used:

     Find an IT vendor that buys back old gear to help pay for your new purchases

          - Vology made a great partner for our Network Team in one of my previous jobs.

               + They purchased our old Cisco/HP network gear for credit towards new gear

               + They also provided parts for older gear

          - Other vendors may offer similar programs

     Find a charity/school/agency to donate the older hardware

          - Schools and other non-profit organizations operate on a limited budget.  They will usually accept tech donations due to large investment to purchase these themselves.

               + These types of donations are usually tax deductible.

               + Finding a school or non-profit to partner with should fairly easy

          - In my Air Force days we shipped our old gear to the Marines or off to auction

     Move towards a cloud presence where you can

          - This eliminates the need to upgrade hardware and falls to your vendor

          - This won't help with network gear at your offices or with the replaced hardware.  To handle those you will need to use one of the other methods.

     Offer the older equipment to your IT teams

          - This allows them to build their own personal lab

               + This allows them to build on their existing skills and build new ones

               + While not a substitute for formal training, this can help build a more versatile IT team.

          - Many employees will see this as a bonus (let's be honest, most of us love to play with technology and learn more about it).

     Auction off old gear

          - Many IT pros like to have a personal lab to build and use for development and testing.

          - Start-up companies or small companies that are still using the same old hardware can purchase this infrastructure.  This allows them to grow and become profitable without a huge up-front investment.

     Most importantly develop a life-cycle management plan

Level 8

Based on our policy, we have to destroy anything that can hold data, but Goodwill will take everything else.  I am not sure what they do with it, but we have been doing it for years.

Level 7

The company I work for utilizes a 3rd party recycling vendor that comes every few months when we gather together a large enough shipment of old computers, keyboards, servers, network equipment, etc. and takes it away to properly recycle it.

In terms of minimizing our on-premise datacenter footprint, we are actually in process of moving to the Azure Cloud, and by the end of the migration process should have somewhere between 90-95% of our IT resources in the cloud and out of our on-premise datacenters.

We have a recycling vendor.  When we remove outdated equipment, the vendor picks up the items.  What they refurbish and sell we get a portion of, the rest the break down to component parts and recycle.

Level 9

Over my time in IT I have also used various methods to recycle old computers.

- I have used leasing with a buy-out clause.  This way I will have a steady cash flow and send the old equipment back on a regular schedule.  This keeps my equipment fresh and lets Dell handle the recycling of the older equipment.

- I have donated to charity and schools. 

- I have sold the equipment to employees. 

- I have used to old equipment in test labs.

In all cases you have to remember to wipe or destroy the hard drives.

If you care enough, you will find a place that will take the old equipment off your hands.  Our city has a free collection day twice a year.  They take everything you have at no cost.  Goodwill also takes a lot of electronics and you get a charitable deduction for the company.  There is always a way.

Level 12

Virtualize, Virtualize, Virtualize

Level 9

We participate in a local e-cycle program for obsolete hardware and recycle old batteries. We also re-appropriate old equipment whenever it can still provide a use to the company. If there is no risk of data loss we also consider selling old tech on ebay.

Level 11

We've donated desktops (monitors, keyboards....) to local programs that re-use them for families.  As for servers and other data center hardware, we have donated some to other organizations, sold some to used hardware vendors and sent the rest to the local electronics recycling program.  I know the donation part doesn't exactly match the theme here, but Re-Use is one of the 3 Rs (reduce, re-use, recycle).

In terms of reducing our footprint, when we virtualized our data center (we're about 90% virtual), we went from 3+ full racks to 1.  And now when we hardware refresh, we're upgrading 4 or 5 virtual hosts instead of 35 servers.

Level 20

We're using a subcontractor that comes and picks up all of our different types off barrels.  We have barrels for paper, media (tapes, cd/dvd's), misc electronics.  We have barrels for used cellphones which are refurbished and sent to the troops abroad.  We have burn barrels.  We also have time when large electronic recycle company comes and we can drive through at work and get rid of electronics and stuff that's larger.

We have also done like rschroeder and most of our servers are virtual on Cisco UCS chassis.

Level 9

At my old job we collected anything that could be recycled and took it all to a plant not to far away once we had a full load. The guys at the recycling company were great about buying all the tech that we brought over. When I was there, I made sure to let anyone know who asked about the recycling program that was offered. Even got a couple of other places to start taking their old tech to them as well. I know it's been said already, but there are a lot of companies now that offer to come around and collect recycling a few times a year for free.

MVP
MVP

For desktops, laptops and servers we have a recycler that picks up the devices. Unfortunately, we have a room full of Cisco equipment that we just can't get them to let go of - finance and depreciation, etc. I've worked other places that donated to non-profits, but not here.

Level 12

Planning and more planning...we are in the process of updating some hardware that is more energy efficient, room chillers, organizing racks for a cold/hot isle.

MVP
MVP

I really wish we could do that here. Our current configuration "sort of" took that into the plan, but it wasn't properly implemented and the hospital just isn't beyond the "if it isn't broken, don't fix it - however it is broken in a real sense."

I hope, some day, that I get to design a data center - I've learned a lot in the last 20 years working with data centers.

Level 10

A previous employer (a large public school district) would sell used PCs, laptops, etc for a modest fee to teachers, students, and families of students for their personal use.  Most other equipment was auctioned off, as a government entity they were more concerned with getting rid of the stuff rather than where it ended up.

My current employer, in the Financial Services arena, uses a recycling service company. They usually schedule a pickup at the corporate headquarters bi-monthly and at our datacenters when requested. We sanitize the devices of any data, hard drives are destroyed prior to pickup. Per our agreement with the recycler, they can only re-sell a few select items, all others must be recycled. This process and the chain of custody of the items is well documented for audit/regulation purposes.

Level 12

We have a battery bin at the entrance to our building.

Larger items get bulk taken away to someone that will re-use or recycle.  All hard-drives are physically destroyed.

Level 16

There are a lot of devices that still contain data even if you assumed they were 'wiped'. For example, a copy machine will still have the last page copied on the platen, a fax machine can have many pages queued up in memory, It's not financially feasible to 'wipe' a PC/server etc. Just too much risk involved when the fines for exposing even a single medical record are so high. We use a shredder on the equipment, same as you would with paper records.

MVP
MVP

Every year we have an internal auction where the proceeds are donated to the local arts.  As part of that auction, out of warranty laptops are sold after being government level wiped by IT.

Level 9

We donate old equipment to a local business that provides skill training for "disabled" people. They then sell those PC's to low income individuals and local schools at discounted prices.

Win-Win for all involved.

Level 13

We've partnered with a local company that comes to our office every 6 months to collect old computer and server items. They bring a hard drive press with them to destroy all our hard drives on site, and take all the old tech - servers, keyboards, mice, desktops, laptops, old cables...

the best part is the only price i pay is for the hard drive smashing - everything else is free.

Level 10

In our organization we have a central location for all that is used hardware. It comes in computers and drives are cleaned and the everything is sent off for recycling. We have one employee who is dedicated to the process so it works very well we also use this to mark the items off of our asset list.

Level 12

We use an IT recycler, shred hard disks, wipe and donate some equipment (recipients are becoming more tech savvy and picky). Auction some off, and save some relevant equipment for DR and emergencies. We also have partnered with one of the top Data Center providers in the nation to provide solely renewable energy to their new Data Center in the Midwest.

Level 9

One of the most significant factors in reducing the datacenter footprint - the spend, energy consumption, and materials disposal - is to be vigilant in right-sizing the hardware to meet the workload requirements, and not over-allocate.  I see three significant strategies that correspond to right-sizing - virtualization, service tiers, and monitoring.  Virtualization provides us with a tactical toolset to dynamically place the right workload on appropriate resources.  Virtualization also provides the capability to move workloads from the best/fastest/newest resources to secondary and tertiary tiers of resources depending on the technical requirements of a particular workload  and business requirements.  Monitoring provides transparency to measure the validity of business and technical requirements against actual performance and the information to intelligently adjust workloads to match those requirements over time.

The days of overspending and over allocating resources to ensure "my" workload has everything it needs (and more, just in case) are in the past.

Level 8

Drilling out all hard drives and removing the magnets as they make great fridge magnets also using an e-recycler to make sure all of the stuff gets recycled properly, obviously resetting the devices back to factory first.

MVP
MVP

I have a friend that worked for a government agency and his process for destroying a hard drive was.

  • DoD wipe the drive
  • Smash the drive with a sledgehammer
  • Incinerate the drive

They wanted to ensure that if the drive escaped anywhere along the way the data was destroyed.