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You Can Go To Jail For Improper PC Disposal

Few executives are aware of fines and jail time that they can get for improperly disposing of old hardware.

K.C. Jones

September 22, 2005

2 Min Read

Few corporate executives know that they can be fined or jailed for improper disposal of computers, according to a recent survey by Hewlett-Packard Financial Services.

HP Financial Services commissioned a survey on information technology equipment disposal. The results, released Thursday, show that few executives are aware of the costs, regulations, penalties, fines, and environmental impacts related to throwing out old IT equipment.

More than 75 percent of respondents underestimate the cost of computer disposal. More than 65 percent of executives with purchasing authority are unaware of the fines they can face for ignoring environmental regulations. Respondents’ biggest concerns surrounding the disposal of IT equipment were data privacy and security.

Recent legislation holds top executives and IT managers accountable for violating customer protection and privacy rules. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act allows fines up to $250,000 and 10 years in prison for each violation of patient health information privacy rules. The Gramm-Leach-Billey Act imposes penalties of up to $100,000 per violation for financial institutions that fail to protect customer information.

The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act allows the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to hold equipment owners accountable even if they outsourced disposal. If the waste ends up leaking toxins into landfills of developing countries, companies can face regulatory penalties, negative publicity and litigation.

Greenpeace International is tracking the problem. The environmental group released a report earlier this year stating that lead, cadmium, mercury, antimony, polychlorinated biphenyls and flame retardants were polluting the land and water near electronic dump sites in China and India.

The European Union has electronics recycling laws, and three states – California, Maryland and Maine – are now regulating the disposal of electronics, including PC parts. Massachusetts, New Jersey and several other states, as well as New York City, are considering similar rules.

“Throwing old computers and servers out in the trash is dangerous to the environment, and even if you go as far as hammering nails into a hard drive, personal information can still be stolen,” Irv Rothman, president and chief executive officer of HP Financial Services said through a news release Thursday.

Not surprisingly, HP Financial Services, the leasing and financial services subsidiary of HP, promotes leasing as a solution. Companies that lease the equipment are responsible for disposal. HP promises to discard the equipment in a safe, secure, environmentally friendly manner.

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