Toss A Scanner Wisely: Think Twice Before Throwing Out Office E-Waste

People who are into the DIY workplace movement often wonder about the economic and time-management savvy of people who simply pay to have their business problems solved. To the "I'll-do-it-myself" types, there is nothing sweeter than the satisfaction of having your own proof the job was done, and knowing you saved the business money by doing it all on your own. This is a noble concept in theory, but it can lead to problems down the road if you're performing a task without all the details. Simple actions you take today could cause your company complex headaches tomorrow.

Take something as simple as tossing out the old office scanner when you get a new one:

Scanners have hard drives, too

You probably already know your printer can save a copy of every document ever printed on the device on its own internal hard drive. Maybe you know that hard drive needs to be destroyed or wiped clean when you dispose of, sell or give away the printer.

Scanners may also have hard drives, although some may not be activated. If there is employee or client personal data on the scanner hard drive and you blindly toss the scanner into the wrong hands, those employees and clients may become victims of privacy violations and identity theft. Simply chunking the decrepit scanner into a dumpster can open your company up to some pretty nasty lawsuits.

Sensitive data leaks cost businesses money

Your own company's proprietary information can end up with your competition or in criminal hands to be used in evil ways. Or a serial litigator can buy your used scanner and become the biggest nuisance your firm has ever had to fight. No business can afford to give away trade secrets or waste time battling frivolous lawsuits, no matter how much money you save throwing out that scanner without a second thought.

Before discarding any printers, scanners or faxes, do your research online or consult with a security expert to learn how the devices store information and how to protect that sensitive data. If you aren't sure how to clean the files yourself, hire someone to show you how, or pay someone to do it for you. The cost is minimal compared to the headaches of security breaches and lawsuits.

New laws are going to force better electronic waste (e-waste) management practices on all businesses in the long run. The EPA estimates that e-waste is growing two to three times faster than other trash streams, so Congress must get a handle on it soon or the world will be drowning in old computer parts and printers.

Practice safe, ethical and sustainable printer and scanner disposal, and get help if you aren't sure what that means. Know when 'Do-it-yourself" isn't enough and when it's wise to hire an expert.