Post-XP disposal: It’s a dirty job and partners should do it

Windows XPOK, so it’s not the most glamorous job in IT, but there might be a buck or two in taking out the trash over the coming weeks thanks to Windows XP.

Tomorrow is D-Day for the lovable-but-threadbare Microsoft Corp.’s XP operating system. If all is going according to plan, lots of businesses customers are refreshing their aging systems with touch-enabled devices that take advantage of Redmond’s newer wares. Let’s face it: Any machine that ran XP out of the box will scarcely make the minimum system requirements to run Windows 7 much less Windows 8.1.

That spells a dumpster full of old gear out back of most every organization undertaking a major XP-driven refresh. There may have been a time when that was OK, but no more. The days of electronics manufacturers cranking out products destined to be bought, used, enjoyed and discarded are over. Product lifecycles that move from raw-materials suppliers to the local landfill aren’t sustainable. It’s bad for businesses, bad for consumers and bad for the planet.

So, what’s a business to do with all of that outdated (and decidedly toxic) tech refuse? With luck, they’ll turn to IT services providers to ensure their waste is safely, securely and legally disposed of.

“It’s important that people consider not only the environmental implications of PC disposal, but also the security implications,” said Thomas Hansen, vice president of Microsoft’s worldwide SMB unit. “Before disposing of a PC or mobile phone, it’s important people take the right steps to make sure all personal and business information has been removed from the device.”

Most states have laws regulating the disposal and recycling of electronics, and several others are considering similar legislation. Microsoft is doing its part for the channel in a statement released today that points end users in the direction of partners to handle the post-XP clean-up.

The vendor is hosting an online list of Microsoft Authorized Refurbishers, including those trained and sanctioned to take old PCs, wipe them clean of user data, install functional operating systems and put them in the hands of the less fortunate in need around the world. In addition to keeping the devices out of the waste stream, recycling one million laptops, for example, saves enough energy to power 3,657 U.S. homes for a year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

All of which could be a boon to solution providers that make equipment disposal and recycling a value-added part of their practices. Certifications such as R2 Solutions, e-Stewards and WEELABEX are likely to become attractive to business customers looking to ensure their old computers and peripherals are handled safely and in an environmentally responsible way.

Microsoft isn’t the only vendor taking an active role in responsible disposal and recycling, of course — just the most noticeable thanks to XP. Others like Samsung do their part by signing on and adhering to directives set down by the Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition. A member of the EICC since 2007, Samsung has been among the industry leaders in maintaining socially and environmentally responsible global supply chains that properly manage all of the material and labor that goes into its products.

According to Richard Hutton, director channel marketing for Samsung’s Enterprise Business Division: “Samsung’s stated vision of ‘Global Harmony with People, Society and Environment,’ strives for a world where people, society and the environment peacefully coexist. All of Samsung’s mobile devices have been in compliance with the strict California Amended Appliance Efficiency Regulations since 2008, and all of our phone chargers, printers, monitors and laptop PCs are Energy Star rated Silver or higher.”

As Hutton correctly points out, this isn’t just about altruism or feel-good environmental activism. “Asset recovery and IT waste management is both a responsibility and a tremendous business opportunity,” he writes. “Building these professional service elements into a solution provider’s practice makes for a valuable differentiating service and greases the skids for ongoing sales of new and better devices.

“Clients that are comfortable moving IT assets in and out of their organizations in an organized and responsible way tend to buy more and upgrade more often.”

As partners prepare to tackle the 11th-hour wave of XP upgrades and the mountain of waste computers it will no doubt create, that’s a solid call to action for any industrious IT providers that don’t mind tackling dirty jobs for the sake of the planet and the bottom line.

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