Partners Relieve Technology Headaches by Recycling Laptops, Electronics

By Jessica Davis  |  Print this article Print

Two million layoffs in 2009 mean a lot of laptops and electronics are likely gathering dust in corporate technology closets, adding to the headaches of embattled IT staffs. Chances are no one will use those computers again because new applications and technology on the market render them obsolete. That means IT solution providers can use the opportunity to help customers recycle those technology assets, recover residual value and apply that value to the price of a new technology solution.

Open the door of that IT closet these days and chances are you’ll find growing piles of equipment—laptops that had been used by those people who were laid off during the recession, PCs set aside after a refresh, servers that have been retired. And as the company takes more equipment out of service and adds it to the pile, the headache for the IT manager in charge of it intensifies.

But IT manager headaches tend to translate into opportunities for IT solution providers, and this is no exception. What if you could go into your customer’s location, take that pile of equipment and recycle it, paying the customer back some residual value that could then be spent on new solutions?

That’s just the opportunity that some industry observers say is ripe for 2010.

"Asset disposal will be very hot in the first six months of the year," OnForce CEO Peter Cannone told Channel Insider. "Among the CEOs that I talk to, that’s one of the things they are looking for. Someone to help them get rid of 100 notebooks and sell them off or help dispose of them."

Cannone contends that not many businesses will be hiring back in 2010 those workers they laid off in 2009. They may use contract workers or temporary employees to augment their workforces, but those individuals won’t be issued company PCs. They will most likely work on their own personal equipment. And that leaves piles of laptops and desktops to become even more obsolete in IT closets everywhere.

"Anything in technology is like fresh fish," Cannone said. "If it hangs around awhile, it starts to stink."

Not only that, but it could also become a tremendous liability to the company that owns it. For instance, while the CIO and IT executives may have invested in the best solutions to protect their network security, chances are those unused laptops and the data on their hard drives are largely unprotected.

"Are there hard drives here? Can an employee pop them out and sell them on eBay?" asked Joe Serra, president of ecycling.com, an electronics asset recovery and recycling company based in Florida and offering services there and in Texas. Serra is also a former executive at technology distributor Tech Data. "Unfortunately what evokes action is a big event."

Serra noted that data security may not even be the only concern. Electronics contain toxic materials, and put enough of it in one place and your storeroom could technically be considered a toxic waste dump, according to Serra, who has seen customer warehouses loaded up with such equipment.

Many IT organizations already know that this is a problem, which is probably why companies like ecycling.com have seen a spike in business recently.

David Bernstein, CEO of Anything IT, which has offered technology asset recovery and recycling services for 17 years, told Channel Insider that his company has seen a big increase in business. How big? Between 2008 and 2009, an estimated 100 percent increase in sales growth.

"We see that continuing," he said, noting that his company works with about 100 channel partners.

Why is business up so much? ecycling.com’s Serra pointed out that companies last did big PC purchases in 2004 or thereabouts, and much of that equipment is at the end of its life now at 6 years old. Plus, about 2 million people lost their jobs in 2009. If only half of those used a PC, that means there are 1 million unused or "orphaned" PCs collecting dust.

That adds up to a perfect storm for electronics recycling, according to Anything IT’s Bernstein, as new applications come onto the market that can’t be run on the old equipment.

Organizations have held onto equipment to the point where "it can no longer do what it was supposed to do. All those things are playing a factor," Bernstein said.

In addition to channel partners, Anything IT works with technology vendors to provide asset recovery services, and recently announced a deal with Samsung. The company has also partnered up with Tech Data. Anything IT works out of locations across the United States, said Bernstein, and also has a GSA schedule so it can work with government customers, too.

For channel partners who help these customer organizations with their used equipment headache, the rewards can be more than just a few bucks. They could provide a competitive edge that helps close the sale of another technology solution to that customer who all of the sudden is getting value back from the headache equipment to reduce the overall cost of the new technology.

"We manage liability and get highest return back from legacy equipment," Bernstein said. "And our main objective is to help partners win ultimate sales they are going for."

Jessica Davis covers the channel for eWeek and Channel Insider. Her technology journalism career began well before anyone heard of the World Wide Web and has included stints at Infoworld, Electronic News/EDN, and the Philadelphia Business Journal. Her work has also appeared on CNN and Forbes.com. She has covered hardware, software and networking, as well as the business side of technology. She has won several journalism awards, including a national ASBPE award for best staff-written column, and was named Marketing Computers hardest working tech journalist on their inaugural list of top tech journalists. Jessica can be reached at jessica.davis@ziffdavisenterprise.com