Free Electronics Recycling. Security, Environmental, and Financial Risks. IT Asset Disposition Services.

In our quest to make wise financial decisions, most of us try to minimize expenses. In our personal lives, we effortlessly hop between websites, price-checking everything from clothing to cars. In the professional world, assessing equipment and service costs may be more time-consuming. But the ultimate goal remains the same: stay under budget. It’s no wonder the word “free” always grabs our attention. However, the age-old adage, “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is,” holds particularly true in the realm of IT asset disposition (ITAD) services. While choosing a free ITAD provider may seem like a cost-saving strategy on the surface, it can result in substantial security, environmental, and financial risks.


Data Security RisksAn electronics recycler that offers free service will likely seem like the most budget-friendly choice. However, it’s important to note this option can expose your organization to substantial security risks. A prominent example is the case against banking giant Morgan Stanley (MSSB). The company learned a costly lesson when it hired a moving company with no experience in electronic data destruction to decommission two data centers. The assets containing MSSB’s encrypted data were sold online, which triggered an investigation, lawsuits, hefty fines, and reputational damage. As of October 17, 2022, MSSB’s blunder has cost them over $163 million, as reported by e-Scrap News.

Effective data protection and destruction demand reliable processes, therefore it’s crucial to confirm your equipment is in the hands of an ITAD provider you can trust. Look for companies with certifications like NAID AAA which ensures the highest standards. NAID mandates a secure chain of custody, including background-checked staff, secure vehicles, and facilities. In addition, a dependable ITAD partner commits to transparency throughout the process including meticulous asset tracking and comprehensive reporting on processing, disposition, and resale activities. To sum it up, your company’s sensitive data is far too valuable to be left to chance with a free or cheap provider that does not offer these safeguards.


Actual example of stockpiled e-waste

Actual example of stockpiled e-waste

If you’re using a low-budget electronics recycler to dispose of your retired IT assets, inquire about the final destination of these items. There are true crime stories about tech recyclers illegally shipping items overseas, dumping them in lakes, or stockpiling and subsequently abandoning them so they become someone else’s problem. Keep in mind it doesn’t take much effort for an investigator to tie ownership and liability to a company by performing searches of the equipment’s serial number, asset tag, service tag, or hard drive.

Proof that such situations can occur is a well-documented story in E-Scrap News involving two Ohio warehouse owners. A staggering 158 million pounds of CRT materials were abandoned on their properties, with an estimated cost of clean-up estimated at $18.2 million. To help recover their expenses, the warehouse owners filed a lawsuit against their lessee, Closed Loop Refining and Recovery, along with other e-scrap suppliers. Lawsuits were also brought against well-known electronic manufacturers such as ASUS Computer International, Dell Technologies, LG Electronics, Samsung Electronics, Sony Electronics, and others for their involvement in shipping the toxic materials to the warehouses. This cautionary tale is a stark reminder that irresponsible practices can have far-reaching consequences, beyond the tech recycler.

Partner with an ITAD provider you can trust. They can help you avoid litigation, protect your reputation, and comply with environmental regulations. To streamline your search, seek out providers who adhere to NIST 800-88 guidelines for electronic and physical data destruction methods. Certifications such as e-Stewards, NAID AAA, ISO 9001, and ISO 14001 offer evidence the ITAD provider is doing the right thing. Their compliance is validated by regular audits.


Refurbished IT assets ready for resaleWhile the allure of “free” is undeniable when considering ITAD services or nearly anything else, when valuable used IT equipment is involved, there may be a better offer. A resale market exists for used devices. By tapping into it, your company can meet its goal of moving out older equipment while also recouping a portion of its initial IT investment. In fact, if your organization has reusable equipment, you could be leaving money on the table. Seek out an ITAD provider that is not only certified in data removal but can also refurbish and remarket the devices to a global marketplace. Resale profits can be used to cover ITAD expenses or added to the bottom line.

Check out our blog post, “Unlock Profit from Used Computers and IT Equipment,” and try our Resale Value Estimator to get a general idea of how much your used electronics are worth.


While the word free can be hard to resist in terms of IT asset disposal, consider the potential hidden costs. Engaging in practices that risk data leaks of sensitive or proprietary information and contribute to environmental damage due to irresponsible disposal can result in significant financial burdens including legal fees, fines, and reputational damage. Additionally, if your company’s devices have resale value, you could be overlooking opportunities for financial gain. To effectively address security, environmental, and financial risks, partner with an ITAD provider with the appropriate certifications and responsible practices.