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E-waste disposal services could help VARs break into tough enterprise accounts

As a long-time blogger on green IT matters, I can guarantee that one thing you’re going to hear more about from your customers as they replace their outdated computers and servers this year is how to ensure that the stuff that’s leaving isn’t going to wind up in a landfill or, just as bad, in some third world country where it will have an equally negative environmental impact. Not to sound too cynical, but more and more states are taking punitive action to ensure that the problem of electronic waste, aka e-waste, is addressed.

That’s why it is time to become familiar with some of the services companies that are handling e-waste management and disposal activities. There are two certifications with which you need to become familiar: e-Stewards developed by the Basel Action Network and R2 (Responsible Recyling) from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Both of these designations require waste management companies to follow certain practices when handling e-waste.

Technology solution provider ValCom is actively offering this service to its customers in conjunction with partner CloudBlue, which is one of the e-Stewards recyclers.

Chuck Birmingham, president of ValCom, says his company began working with CloudBlue several years ago but in 2010, it started receiving more inquiries about e-waste strategy. It isn’t just compliance that businesses are worried about, he says, there is an opportunity to derive some value out of this older equipment. “I see this business exploding this year,” Birmingham says. “It is out with the old, in with the new.” ValCom has actually integrated its systems electronically with CloudBlue so there is a seamless interface of the two companies’ services.

What is the old equipment worth? As an example, a Pentium 4 desktop could be a $35 to $40 value in components or refurbished hardware. The value of that technology can, in many cases, pay for the disposal services. If there is an additional value, CloudBlue cuts a check.

Birmingham says ValCom is receiving at least two requests each week for e-waste disposal and asset management services. In some cases, the services have pulled the solution provider into accounts where it previously wouldn’t have had an introduction because the customer typically buys direct from hardware vendors.

Ken Bayer, CEO of CloudBlue, says his organization has doubled the size of its New Jersey processing facility in the past year to accommodate a rapidly increasing volume of business. The main concern of many businesses and IT solution providers working with CloudBlue is security: they want to make sure that data is destroyed properly.

CloudBlue’s business with VARs and technology distributors has grown substantially: it now works with approximately 150 VARs, including local ones and larger national provider. Distributors Synnex and Avnet are also partners. “In 2011, we want to extend our relationships with the channel,” he says.

Over the past few months, Bayer says CloudBlue has seen an increase in the servers and network equipment that are being recycled or refurbished. He attributes that to the ongoing data center virtualization migration. The highest volume of products that it handles are desktops, but mobile devices are also growing in number.

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