ISRI2022: Navigating ITAD certification and managing device volume amid labor shortages

Last year saw the highest number of recorded data breaches, and according to a 2021 Identity Theft Resource Center report, there were 1,862 breaches last year, an increase of 68% compared to 2020, which exceeds the previous record of 1,506 set in 2017.

Recycling professionals are increasingly concerned about data and privacy, especially when it comes to electronics recycling, and panelists at the 2022 Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) Convention and Expo , held March 21-24 in Las Vegas, discussed navigating computing resources. disposal (ITAD) as more and more companies have seen a recent increase in the volume of devices.

According to the WEEE (Waste Electronic and Electrical Equipment) Forum, an estimated 57.4 million tonnes of e-waste was generated last year and 53.6 million metric tonnes generated in 2019 – a problem that it attributes to higher electronics consumption rates, shorter product life cycles and limited repair options.

“There are real constraints adding to the market,” said Russ Ernst, executive vice president of products and technology at Finland-based Blancco. “The concern is really if any of these assets that go through the waste treatment process or go through a refurbishment process to come back to market, there has to be an awareness that if an asset comes back to market with personally identifiable information, you are held responsible – you are responsible for this asset.

Ernst said that from ITAD’s perspective, many see data erasure, or data sanitization, as the “last step between when this device goes through its first life before it goes to its second life in the circular economy”.

But data erasure comes with compliance requirements that vary from industry to industry, making it difficult to know whether your business is compliant and where to start when it comes to regulatory standards. “As the global population becomes part of this kind of privacy legislation, it’s important in every market, in every industry,” Ernst said. “As we begin to think about how things are going in the market, it will become much more important to even understand your customers or your customers’ customer compliance requirements.”

Karen Fedder, director of ITAD, North America, at Blancco, said IT asset managers have become very educated “through the mistakes of others” when it comes to increasing data breaches, adding that there are emerging standards requiring data erasure independent of physical destruction. “If you have the ability to do that wipe, that’s an added level of security,” she said.

Ernst said that as new compliance requirements are implemented, one of the main goals should be to obtain a certificate of erasure, a kind of proof that the asset has undergone a process of erasure. data sanitization. “In today’s world, with the massive proliferation of data-bearing assets, you start to think only of the number of mobile devices in the market today. It’s all about data collection. … That’s probably the key to navigating those compliance requirements.

Panelists also discussed managing device volumes in the face of labor shortages. Fedder said the ITAD industry is seeing more devices returning than even before the pandemic and most companies are seeing record volume. “They’re sitting on a lot of money,” she said. “You need to be able to process this fairly quickly to be able to start getting their money back. You’re sitting on millions of dollars, potentially hundreds of thousands depending on the size of your business.

But there are still concerns about shredding versus erasing, and Fedder and Ernst said companies can assure customers that erasing is both safe and effective. “That’s where some of the laws in the standards really need to be ratified and finalized to make sure there’s something you can point to and say, ‘Yes, it’s safe because it meets [this standard]”, Ernst said.

He added: “That’s where we saw a huge change in terms of taking those drives, going through secure data sanitization and we still had that wipe certificate per asset, per individual serial number, which can prove that the data was deleted from this drive instead of going through physical destruction.

But the challenge is to manage record volumes with fewer staff as labor shortages continue across the industry. Historically, much of the material has been handled manually, by getting the numbers, making sure an operator knows which device is being handled for which customer. “The way to get around that now and be able to get those higher revenues and not do it by the pound and instead do it by the device is through automation,” Fedder said.

“There are many ways to do it,” she added. “Know in advance what customers want [and] ask the operator to do the minimum amount of work and in doing so you can hire people who are not necessarily highly qualified [yet] and put them down quickly.

She added that it often takes 12 to 16 weeks to upgrade a carrier, and because different customers have different needs, often a device will get different ratings from different carriers based on skill and experience. Automation can then increase processing and therefore increase value.

Device volumes also exploded as the pandemic increased the number of devices needed as much of the world shifted to remote working and the 5G network was introduced. “The really important thing from a circular economy perspective is that devices from a year and a half ago that only had 4G…still have a lot of retail value, especially for regions world that are not compatible with 5G,” said Fedder.

Ernst echoed the push for automation at every step of the process. “It comes down to efficient handling of these different types of materials,” he said. “There are automation opportunities for every business process you have…and thinking about how certain materials should be handled consistently.”

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