Please enable JavaScript.  This webapp requires JavaScript to work at its best.

Security Vs Sustainability to shred or not to shred

How decommissioning is costing the earth


Today’s IT managers are all too aware of the pressure to do more with less. But that’s not the only challenge on the table.

The UK government now expects organisations everywhere to pursue more sustainable practices when it comes to managing their IT assets from cradle to grave. Plus, falling short of environmental performance goals can have significant consequences in the form of fines and tarnished reputations.

With shareholders, the press and consumers on high alert for any failure on the part of big business or government agencies when it comes to the pursuit of a green agenda, grappling with sustainability issues is now a top priority.

For IT managers, this raises a major conundrum when it comes to dealing with old storage devices and servers: should sustainability priorities trump security concerns?

Because whenever IT organisations undertake a tech refresh, the thorny question of what to do with old drives and data storage devices inevitably raises its ugly head.

How decommissioning is costing the earth

In many instances, fears that data could leak – leading to huge fines from regulators – means that thousands of decommissioned servers and drives are shredded on a daily basis.

“According to research around 90% of equipment is routinely destroyed after decommissioning, despite the fact that much is still functional.”

And while these shreds are widely sent for recycling, today’s processes mean that only about 70% of raw materials can be recovered. The result is that around 54 million tonnes of electronic waste are produced globally.

According to Deborah Andrews, Professor of Design for Circularity at London South Bank University, shredding represents a massive problem for sustainability. Especially when you consider how the many of the rare minerals used to produce circuit boards are in short supply, thanks to impact of geo political conflicts and wars around the world. But this isn’t the only issue.

According to studies, reusing a hard drive avoids four times as many carbon dioxide emissions compared to shredding and recycling. Meanwhile, Dell has found that manufacturing accounts for half of the carbon footprint of one of its servers, accounting for energy-related emissions from four years of use.

Is destruction the only answer?

In a word – no. Today’s conventional drives can now be securely wiped and re-used. Which is good news for organisations looking to decommission and sell on their old devices, which ensures they get another lease of life for years to come.

However, organisations looking to ditch device destruction and adopt a more sustainable data deletion approach will need to work with a reputable and knowledgeable company that can oversee the appropriate wiping of their data storing devices.

The growing case for re-using and refurbishing

Many of today’s organisations are getting smarter about the twin benefits of extending the life of their IT assets.

Alongside saving the planet, they’re generating savings that go straight to the bottom line. Whether that’s refurbishing and re-using drives and servers or extending the service of their existing server and network equipment from four to six years or more.

According to industry experts, the energy efficiency of servers built in the last decade means it’s now difficult to justify a replacement based on emissions performance. But if tech advances do warrant a replacement, organisations should think hard about destroying a server that still has many serviceable years ahead of it.

“The re-furbish and re-use approach is gaining traction with some major tech firms. Indeed, Microsoft now operates several ‘circular centres’ for refurbishing old servers and says that 80% of its decommissioned cloud assets will be repurposed by 2024.”

With so many options to choose from, today’s organisations can start planning for tomorrow with sustainability and security in mind.