What is IT Asset Disposition (ITAD)?

IT Asset Disposition (ITAD) is a process that large companies use to responsibly dispose of and recycle their outdated equipment. Sometimes referred to as IT asset recycling, ITAD refers to the overall industry of disposing of outdated or undesired equipment in an environmentally safe and responsible manner. 

No matter what business you’re in these days, it’s a safe bet to say that technology plays an essential role in your work. Whether you run a technology-focused business or a hedge fund, you can’t stay on top of your industry without the right computing equipment. But what happens when your computers get old and need to be retired? How can you safely dispose of your end-of-life equipment? 

That’s where ITAD comes in. A good ITAD provider knows how to wipe your old equipment and discard it properly and securely. ITAD companies can also figure out which parts of your unused equipment can be reused or recycled. 

With data security, safety, and compliance in mind, ITAD providers focus on mitigating expenses and maximizing the value of the IT assets for their clients while providing secure data destruction with chain of custody documentation to support environmentally friendly e-waste recycling solutions. Other IT solutions that an ITAD provider typically offers include refurbishing and repairing used equipment, lease return management services, secure data erasure, on-site hard drive shredding, and data center decommissioning.

Why ITAD Matters

As a business grows, so will the need for more sophisticated computers and network equipment. Some of this equipment will make it to the end-of-life stage, while others are upgraded and replaced before its natural life cycle is up. The rapid replacement of equipment has made dealing with IT asset disposal an increasingly urgent issue. Few people realize that our reliance on new electronics comes with steep environmental costs ending with the disposal of used devices.

In 2019 alone, people discarded a record 53.6 million metric tons of electronic waste, and surprisingly, just 17.4% (9.1 million tons) of that was recycled. That means that over 44 million tons of e-waste just sit in a landfill somewhere.

Replacing and updating your company’s technology is simple, but disposing of this equipment without contributing to environmental hazards while also protecting your data, requires a more complex strategy. ITAD providers specialize in managing these processes and focus on responsible and cost-effective disposal or remarketing of IT assets where profit is viable. Meaning more money can be rotated back into your budget, making it easier to keep your IT infrastructure at the cutting edge. 

Protect from Risk and Data Exposure
ITAD helps you manage your company's exposure by safely sanitizing data and ensuring that your used equipment doesn't end up in landfills.

Support Sustainability Goals
Companies continue to focus on corporate sustainability initiatives. Concepts like sustainable sourcing, social value, and the circular economy are gaining steam.

Finance and Innovation
In the future, procurement will have to expand their financial skillsets and work closely with finance.

Chain of Custody Transparency
Knowing where your equipment comes from and where it ends up and how much each step costs, you can inject transparency into a difficult and opaque process.

The Relationship between ITAD and the Circular Economy

In general, the traditional linear economy and the technology equipment industry use a process where manufacturers intentionally create products with limited lifespan - giving purchasers no choice but to keep replacing these items. As ITAD providers, we are responsible for choosing between continuing to follow the standards set by a linear economy or following the progressive principles of a circular economy.

Organizations of all sizes in public and private sectors are rethinking their ITAD strategy, putting equipment reuse first whenever possible over asset destruction and recycling – a superior alternative to the current make-use-dispose approach. A circular economy for ITAD looks to redefine growth, focusing on society-wide solutions that benefit the consumer and the environment.

Whether you’re an IT asset manager, recycling director, sustainability program manager of a corporation or a city government, the first step in more effective reuse starts with identifying what devices have strong secondary markets. These can include retired IT assets from users, residents, enterprises, offices, agencies, school districts, and data centers.


What is the Circular Economy?

The circular economy is exactly what it sounds like - a circular pattern that continually reduces, reuses, and recycles scarce resources back into the supply chain to keep existing materials in circulation for as long as possible. Rather than extracting new, natural resources every time a product is created, and disposing of it once its lifecycle is complete (as the linear model does), the circular model plans for reuse from the very beginning. 

It's a paradigm shift with a new supply chain process to get our heads around. In theory, it fully supports restoring our Earth by maintenance through repairs and remarketing strategies to extend the life of existing products and materials.

ITAD and Data Security

A data leak is a devastating blow to any organization and can be more than just financially damaging – your brand’s reputation is also on the line. When IT equipment reaches its end of life or end of service, it needs to be retired or decommissioned responsibly

With the average cost of a data breach at $3.86 million in 2020, a sound ITAD plan should always be viewed through the lens of data security first and recognized as a way to enhance IT budgets. Our team boiled down a list of 10 ways to prevent a data breach, along with five things to do if one happens.

Time spent implementing data security into your ITAD program will only benefit your organization in the long run. Choosing a vendor with NAID AAA Certification is a plus that will give you continued peace of mind. It takes an average of 207 days to identify a data breach and 73 days to contain it. That is a total of 280 days spent backtracking instead of moving forward.

Ensure data security, sustainability, and value recovery in your business.

Applying best practices will make a difference between secure ITAD and revealing sensitive information.
Download your Data Security guide


ITAD and the Law

When it comes to remaining compliant with data disposal laws, the devil is in the details. It’s incredibly important to sanitize devices and dispose of them appropriately. In fact, data disposal is subject to many stringent and punitive laws around the world. 

US Data Protection Laws
Hard drives can store multiple types of data including personal, sensitive, or otherwise proprietary information. In many cases, they’ll store what is defined as Personally Identifiable Information (PII) - a regulated data type consisting of information such as mailing or email addresses, phone numbers, IP addresses, geolocation, biometric data, and even social security numbers.

Careless disposal of PII is subject to harsh legal penalties in many countries. Similarly, companies who do not have regimented processes for the retirement of technology and the resident data are also at risk of a loss of reputation, trust, and revenue. 

In the United States, there are several major laws that businesses need to remain aware of:

Privacy Act of 1974
The Privacy Act of 1974 holds certain stipulations for the rights and restrictions on data when it is held by government agencies. It governs the collection, maintenance, use, and dissemination. Essentially, US federal workers must not wilfully disclose information to anyone not entitled to receive it. 

The Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACTA) 
This law was passed in 2003 and its purpose is to enhance customer protections, mainly those that protect against identity theft. While it meant that the amount of PII required from customers increased, it also gave more protection to that PII when gathered.

Penalties for violations of FACTA vary, but wilful violations could amount to penalties within the billions.

Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLBA)
Also known as the Financial Modernization Act, this law was passed in 1999. It requires US companies to explain how they share and protect personal information and protects financial non-public personal information (NPI). Amongst other specifics, it means that businesses apply special protections to private data in accordance with an information security plan.

Punishments for GLBA non-compliance, once proven, are severe. Individuals found in violation face fines of $10,000 for each violation discovered. Organizations face $100,000 for each violation.

Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)
HIPAA came into force in 1966 and covers information regarding health status, care, or payment, setting standards for covered parties and business associates. It only applies to protected health information (PHI).

Any organization that houses this kind of data must protect it - during use or disposal.  Jail terms are likely and restitution may also need to be paid to affected individuals. However, the penalties brought forth depend on whether the breach was carried out with intent or not and the degree of negligence involved.

California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA)
At least 35 states implement their own laws regarding data protection and the CCPA is a well-known one. It has actually influenced other states to create similar laws, which have been implemented in areas such as Maryland, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts among others.

Passed in early 2020, the CCPA actually incorporates the foundational principles of GDPR, mirroring its focus on data protection and privacy requirements. Penalties for violations of the CCPA vary, with fines of $2,500 for individual breaches and $7,500 for wilful individual breaches.

Similarly, both the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) also require the proper disposition of information.

The Afterlife of IT Assets

Most IT laws cover data privacy, but there are also environmental laws you need to consider. There's been a major shift toward standardized ESG disclosures for public companies. Read the Blog - 3 Steps to Comply with New ESG Regulatory Actions

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Industry Certifications

Sure, we have certifications, so do a lot of companies. The importance of certifications isn’t in having them - it’s in changing the mindset and process that they represent in your organization. 

But why are certifications so important?
Attention to training and detail ensures that your team takes the necessary steps in project design and management to avoid potential catastrophes like losing data, not wiping a hard drive, or missing an important step in the logistics chain. These are the certifications that we chose and why we put in the work to get them.

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e-Stewards since 2015

e-Stewards is the highest e-waste recycling certification in the world. Less than 6% of ITAD companies receive this certification. All three of our Apto facilities are e-Stewards certified.

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The National Association for Information Destruction (NAID) was first formed as a non-profit in 1994. Aiming to promote the information destruction industry and the safe and secure destruction of information, NAID established a strong code of ethics that requires all member companies to deal fairly and honestly with their customers. 

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ISO 9001 since 2011

The ISO 9001 is the backbone of our certifications,  a quality management system that ensures customer expectations are met. Four principles and benefits:
     1. Strong Customer Focus
Management Involvement
Process Driven
     4. Continual Improvement

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ISO 14001 since 2011

ISO 14001 is a management system that provides a systematic approach for measuring and improving our environmental impact. The ISO 14001 standard certifies that Apto Solutions implements a process of continual improvement, which includes policy, planning, implementation, operation, regular checkups and reviews by management, thus protecting people, partners, customers, and our planet.

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ISO 45001 (previously OHSAS 18001)

ISO 45001 is a management system ensuring employee safety, reducing workplace risks, and creating better, safer working conditions. Four principles and benefits: 
     1. Improves morale, safety, and performance
     2. Builds trust with community and partners
     3. Creates consistency and efficiency
     4. Preventative risk and hazard assessment

Choosing The Right ITAD Partner

Certifications, Check! Flexibility, Check! Experience, Check!
Whether you are reviewing your current vendor or evaluating a new one, your partner should check all of the boxes.

Core attributes like facility locations and Client Support Structure combined with responsiveness and reliability make up the blueprint for success when selecting the right ITAD partner to fit your unique project needs. 

Does your partner check the boxes?

Learn how you can identify the ITAD partner that's right for your project needs.
Download your checklist


Reuse vs. Recycle

A proper sustainability plan should include reuse as the first option of IT Asset Disposition. Keeping products in use for longer increases the lifespan of resources. However, when products and their parts reach the end of their useful life, you need to be assured their materials are being used to manufacture new products. Circular Transformation® is an innovative process that provides the necessary traceability and tracking to create a closed-loop system. 

The goal always should be creating circular economies — in which all the devices we outgrow either can be reused or broken down into materials that can be used in the next generation of products and devices, with nothing wasted. 

Reuse Process Flow

ITAD Guides and Business Cases


ITAD Field Services for Cloud Migration

In IT Asset Disposition (ITAD), all you need is a partner with the right asset disposition knowledge who can manage your unique project needs.

Download Case Study
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How ITAD Field Services Supports Could Migration

In IT Asset Disposition (ITAD), all you need is a partner with the right asset disposition knowledge who can manage your unique project needs.

Watch Video


5 Ways ITAD Field Services Benefits your Organization

This is your guide on how to reduce the resource burden on your organization and move forward confidently knowing that your assets are processed securely and efficiently.

Download Guide

ITAD Statistics for 2023

The ITAD market is driven by advancement in the IT industry and the rise in usage of electronic devices globally with a projected worth of $22 Billion by the year 2026. Additionally, the market is projected to showcase a 6.9% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) during this forecasted period.

However, the high cost of investment and lack of awareness of the benefits associated with asset disposition are the restraining factors that are hindering the growth of the market.

E-Waste Exposed
With the lack of ease and possible fees to recycle e-waste, it seems like an uphill battle to tackle this growing waste problem that comes with toxic materials that are thought to be detrimental to human health upon exposure. The following surprising facts about e-waste may help to spur action — both to protect the environment and to stop wasting resources that amount to quite a lot of cash being tossed in landfills each year.

  1. Global e-waste volumes grew by 21% between 2104 and 2019, according to the United Nations, a pace that will lead to a doubling of e-waste in just 16 years. The world discarded 53.6 million tons of e-waste in 2019.

  2. Only 17.4% of e-waste discarded in 2019 was recycled, the United Nations reports.

  3. The United States generated 6.92 million tons of e-waste, about 46 pounds per person, in 2019. It recycled only 15% of the material.

  4. The value of the raw materials contained in the e-waste produced in the U.S. during 2019 was $7.49 billion. That’s right. We threw away billions of dollars worth of materials that could be used again.

  5. Recycling 1 million laptops saves the energy equivalent to the electricity used by 3,657 U.S. homes in a year, according to the EPA.

How can we make a difference, together?

Creating a closed-loop system is key to repurposing the metals or plastics from your devices and putting those back into new product manufacturing.
Download the 2021 Circularity Report


Contact our team of ITAD experts to discuss how we can support
your next disposition project.