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Server Recycling: What to Do with Decommissioned Servers?

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Server Recycling: Pros, Cons, Options, and Things to Keep in Mind

The Environment and Server Recycling

Currently, 25 states have government regulations for e-waste. This has impacts on server recycling.

Servers are classified as an environmental hazard under this legislation due to the PCB boards that contain polychlorinated biphenyl.

The good news is that consumers love greener companies. When most people think of being “green,” they think of recycling.

However, the most beneficial option for maintaining the environment is actually to reuse, not recycle.

While server recycling is still better than chucking servers in a landfill to produce the next hulk or something, it is still not ideal. If you have newer server equipment, check out our guide on the best places to sell used servers instead.

Recycling produces its own waste, uses energy, and involves costs.

server recycling waste

Reusing servers can make you money, requires much less labor and also helps reduce the need for manufacturing new servers.

Repurpose or Reuse instead of Recycling

As a result of these benefits, when possible look for other areas within your company to maximize the life of the IT assets.

Could you use the old servers as a backup for when your newer servers need an update? Could you store lower priority archival data on them?

There is one potential exception to the benefits of reuse, however. If the equipment will be used for energy-intensive purposes or constant workloads, repurposing old equipment may be a poor choice.

Newer equipment can be significantly more energy efficient for these tasks. This makes reusing the leftover servers less ideal from an environmental standpoint.

Server Donation for Tax Writeoffs

Another avenue to add life to your old servers is through donations.

While the sale of heavily depreciated assets can be harsh on the bottom line, donating those assets leaves you with a significant tax write-off. And actually, this may be more beneficial than selling the servers.

Many ITAD companies can help facilitate the logistics of donating IT assets. However, a fee is traditionally collected for the services.


Server Resale or remarketing can be an appealing option when your servers are still valuable. And one that can be better than server recycling.

For just a few servers, it is viable to sell the servers yourself online, though the logistics can be time-consuming.

If you’re planning to remarket servers yourself, refer to our guide.

For a bulk quantity of servers, it’s simply not viable for most companies to try and liquidate them in-house without burying their IT department with work.

In these cases, relying on an ITAD company for data center liquidation services or data center decommissioning is a smart choice.

Server Recycling: the End of the Line

So you’ve entertained the idea of repurposing servers, donating them, or reselling them through the secondary market.

After all that, server recycling is your final choice.

When choosing a server recycling service, it’s important to keep a couple of things in mind. The first one is to ensure your data security.

server recycling and security

Data Security

As an FYI, we covered data security extensively in another blog post on proper data security.

For server recycling specifically, do your due diligence with regard to erasing your data before handing it off to a recycler.

Many of the better recyclers will be able to provide data erasure services on-site so that none of your sensitive data leaves your location.

Server Recycling Downstream

Recycling doesn’t always mean recycling: it’s estimated that 50-80% of “recycledelectronics don’t actually end up being recycled, but instead, are exported offshore to developing countries.

These countries will pay for second-rate IT equipment. So it is a natural decision for many disreputable recyclers to simply sell the material.

While reuse is better than recycling over here, when it goes to developing countries without established recycling practices, things get dicey.

server recycling

In the e-waste locations throughout India, Pakistan, China, and other developing countries, electronics are casually discarded into rivers, burned, tossed in acid baths, or stockpiled.

Toxins like cadmium, mercury, and BFRs contained in the products seep out into the grass. Some of these toxins also emit deadly gases for nearby inhabitants to inhale, etc.

To avoid these dangerous effects on the environment and overseas populations, simply verify the downstream processes of the server recycling vendor you decide to commission.

If they can’t give you a definitive path for the servers from start to eventual recycling location, they probably don’t even know where their scrap ends up.

Choose a vendor that can reassure you that you’re not hurting the environment. You’ll want to do this so that you can honestly tell your customers at the end of the day that you’re a green company.

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