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MP criticised for promoting free IT disposal firm

Posted on Posted in Business

Cannock Chase MP Aidan Burley has been criticised for promoting a free IT disposal service in his constituency.

In a debate at Westminster Hall, he praised PRM a free service in Cannock, Staffordhsire that disposes of school IT equipment. He also proposed that all IT disposal companies should provide a free service.

However, Jon Godfrey, the director of Sims Lifecyle Services, wrote an open letter to Burley, accusing him of not understanding how IT disposal works.

One of his main concerns is that free IT disposal services do not destroy data on disk drives properly. Many disposal services simply crush disks, which keeps the process inexpensive but does not comply with government standards.

Companies that dispose of computers often leave confidential data on the disk drives. To illustrate this, Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust was fined £325,000 in 2012 for selling old computers to a contractor who sold them on eBay without wiping the disk drives.

The University of Glamorgan conducts an annual disk survey and purchases hundreds of disks from disposal firms to check them for data. It says that roughly half of the disks contain sensitive information. This supports Godfrey’s claim that that many IT disposal companies are not deleting data correctly.

PRM, the firm praised by Burley, has responded to Jon Godfrey claiming that its free service does has high standards. A statement said:

“Our service is free because of the way our business model operates. We have never charged for our service. Surely it is up to us to decide what business model we choose to adopt?… We ensure we conform to all relevant legislation required.”

ADISA is an accreditation scheme for companies that dispose of IT assets. Its scheme is designed to provide assurance that accredited companies have the highest standard in how they dispose of data and old IT equipment. Steve Melling of ADISA responded to Burley’s comments:

“The only service which is sustainable is a charged-for service and then a secondary residual agreement where the issuing entity receives their share of the value of the equipment they released. I have seen many ‘free’ companies go to the wall in the past few years and many more operating hand to mouth. This is not a sustainable business model and a more sensible position would be to promote PRM as a charge-for service which returns money to the government.”

The  Waste Electric and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Regulations, which came into force in 2014, stipulate that IT equipment has to be disposed of properly and not simply put into landfills.

After data has been securely wiped from hard drives, some equipment can be refurbished for resale. If this is not possible, metal and other materials can be extracted for recycling.

The remarks by MP Burley have contributed to the discussion on whether IT disposal can be done for free, or whether companies should pay to ensure that the collection and disposal of their old IT equipment conforms to the highest government standards.