Information Technology department, Physical Plant dispose electronic waste in regulated, cheap fashion

The UCA Information Technology department and the Physical Plant work jointly to dispose of electronic waste on campus.

The university’s electronic waste disposal program is based on state regulations for the disposal of electronic waste, which includes state-owned desktop computers, laptops, printers and cellphones.

UCA IT Director Terry Brewer said the department handles part of the disposal process for retired university computers.

He said the computers are stripped of their hard drives and sent to the Physical Plant for transport to the state Marketing and Redistribution warehouse. The IT department runs the harddrives over a large magnet in a “degaussing” process.

When the hard drives are erased, they are sent to the Physical Plant and are physically destroyed. Twice a year the hard drives are taken and sold for scrap.

The computer chassis is taken to the physical plant and put in a storage unit for safekeeping until it can be shipped to the state Marketing and Redistribution center.

Computers and printers are put on separate pallets and wrapped before being hauled away to the state Marketing and Redistribution warehouse.

UCA Inventory Accountant Ann Davis is responsible for the storage and transfer of all retired electronic waste at UCA.

Davis said the university has dealt with a particularly large wave of retired computers because of Windows’ discontinuation of support for Windows XP.

“It’s been a bigger wave than we’ve had in a while,” Davis said.

Davis said her department does what it can to repurpose retired materials, but that other than the occasional professor who wants to “cannibalize” and reuse older computers, most people do not want old computers.

She said Inventory Assistant Faith Hopkins keeps a list of things different departments want her to keep an eye out for, such as chairs and furniture.

Though the warehouse stores most of UCA’s electronic waste, most of the space is devoted to furniture and chairs. Davis said there is “not enough space” for what is in the warehouse.

According to documents Davis supplied, the UCA electronic waste disposal system is based on state standards set in 2001 and 2002 to deal with repurposing state electronics. The policies on degaussing and sale of electronic waste stem from the Arkansas Department of Information Systems’ Computer and Electronic Waste Management Policy.

According to the policy, state agencies are not required to sell their equipment through the state Marketing and Redistribution department, but all are required to follow the policies for disposal.

Brewer said after items are shipped to the state Marketing and Redistribution center, state agencies are given the chance to pick out anything they want to reuse. After this, the warehouse is opened to the public once a week to sell the electronics.

When UCA equipment is sold, 50 percent goes to UCA, 25 percent goes to state Marketing and Redistribution and 25 percent goes to the Computer and Electronic Recycling fund if it is electronic waste.

UCA’s share is returned to its Marketing and Redistribution fund to help pay for disposal of more equipment.

Davis said she works on a $1,900 annual budget, so the department has done the math to figure out the least expensive way to properly dispose of everything.

She said the state hauls the waste away monthly at $92 per load, which she said is the most cost-effective way the department has been able to find.

When items are cannibalized, transferred or retired, specific forms must be filled out. Several forms cost a small fee, which the department pays for.

To protect against theft of information or equipment, several safety checks are in place.

Davis said there is a log that shows every time someone borrows a key to the UCA warehouse, but only a select few people can access the warehouse without supervision.

A log is also kept showing who handled and destroyed each hard drive and the records are kept for up to five years.

When transporting the computers to state Marketing and Redistribution, Hopkins marks each item with a specific number, which is kept in a log along with the serial numbers.

When the items reach the state warehouse, they are immediately checked off and any discrepancies are reported.

Electronic waste is not the only equipment kept in the warehouse. The warehouse also contains desk chairs, several pieces of furniture and other equipment the university does not want to dispose of.

Some of the equipment, such as several of the chairs, will eventually be repaired or claimed by another department.

A large section of the warehouse contains furniture that departments have claimed but have not taken yet. Many pieces of furniture are also kept in the building for the president. Davis said when a president moves into the President’s House, he may choose to redecorate.

The unused furniture will often end up in the warehouse.

Davis said UCA doesn’t like to throw things away, so many chairs and pieces of furniture will sit around for years before being thrown away. Davis said nice pieces generally go quickly and used to bookshelves as an example.

“Some department somewhere will want these, so they’ll be reused,” she said.

UCA does not offer electronic waste disposal for student use, though Brewer said Conway has electronic waste disposal sites at different points around the city.

“That would be a good thing for UCA to do, to offer electronic waste disposal,” he said.

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