September 16, 2008

3 Min Read
Ask Steve: Helping SMBs Be Green

By Steve Hilton

Yankee Group’s Steve Hilton

The beginning of autumn is a great time to get rid of old stuff you don’t need anymore. Old technology sits in closets and under the desks of many SMBs and large enterprises doing nothing besides gathering dust. Should you throw it away? Should you pile it into a stack, put a table cloth on it and call it the new break room? Let me give you another option.

Q: I come across a lot of used technology at my customers’ offices. Often my customers want me to take it away, but I’m pretty sure throwing it away isn’t “green.” Any suggestions, Steve?

— Vanessa from Atlanta

A: Vanessa, all that old technology — plastics, aluminum, steel, precious metals and batteries — will end up in a landfill somewhere if you or your customers toss it in the rubbish bin. And, by the way, doing so you likely violate local, state or national regulations because many of these assets contain hazardous waste components.

Have you come across IBM’s Global Asset Recovery business yet? IBM has an online buy-back program for used technology from small and large businesses. You can sell one or 5,000 pieces of equipment to IBM — and the technology needn’t be IBM-branded.

IBM offers its brand-agnostic asset buy-back program for smaller businesses globally through its Global Asset Recovery Services division. For small-sized businesses, click on IBM’s weblink, quickly type in the asset category, brand and model and see how much IBM will pay you for your used equipment.

Of all the used IT equipment IBM buys back, less than 1 percent of it ends up in landfills. (see graphic, IBM Global Asset Recovery Financial and Ecological Impact). Put another way, if you sell 35 pounds of old IT equipment to IBM (a handful of laptops), only 4.5 ounces of IT waste would end up in a landfill. IBM would salvage the remaining 34 pounds, 11.5 ounces and put it back into the IT supply chain. And all the controlled, hazardous substances would have been properly reused, recycled or disposed, meeting all local, state and national regulations.

In 2007 IBM processed approximately 100 million pounds (44,000 metric tons) of used technology products, or approximately 40,000 machines per week. Over the last four years, IBM processed the weight equivalent of 157 Airbuses of materials through its recycling centers worldwide. These are staggering numbers.

Also, proper data security is critical for small and large businesses. A business wouldn’t want private customer identifying information making its way to a nefarious destination. IBM addresses this security risk by overwriting all systems it received, and IBM makes available additional overwrite levels to asset recovery customers who require it.

So why is recycling that old technology a good idea?

  • It’s good for the environment. As we practice what we preach to the next generation, recycling is one effort we can make at the office that matter.

  • Recycling removes regulatory and legal risks associated with waste disposal or storage. Improper disposal of IT assets often violate local, state or national laws. Assuming these types of risks imputes additional costs on a business.

  • You can make a little extra money. We haven’t found a business yet that would mind a little extra pocket change.

Thanks for the great green question, Vanessa.

What Do SMBs Want?

Ask Steve.  Send your questions to [email protected]. Please include your name, city, state and a phone number where you can be reached.  First names and locations only will be published.

Steve Hilton is the vice president of Yankee Group’s Enterprise Research Group with an expertise in converged solutions for SMBs. Hilton manages a team of analysts delivering consulting, research and programs to help vendors and service providers better serve SMBs, midmarket enterprises and large enterprises globally. Visit Yankee Group online at

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